For Spartans, a bitter end to an otherwise successful ride

Daryl Anderson, Robert Jones
Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 18:38:49-04

FORT WORTH, TX (WTKR)- The confidence was there heading into the game, but once Norfolk State and Baylor tipped off, the Bears were bigger, faster and stronger.

The Spartans fell into an early hole and couldn't match Baylor's firepower in an 85-49 loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It marked the first of NSU's three appearances in the Big Dance that it did not win a game.

Baylor opened up a 16 point lead at halftime and continued to pull away in the second frame. The Bears shot 57 percent from the floor and knocked down 11 three-pointers, making it difficult for the green and gold to keep up. Five Baylor players scored in double figures, led by Matthew Mayer's 22 points.

"They came out and played tough, physical," noted Norfolk State head coach Robert Jones. "They showed why they're the defending national champs."

It's not the ending Norfolk State had envisioned, but the 2021-2022 campaign still gave the Spartans and their fans plenty of proud moments. NSU ends the season with a 24-7 record and enters next season as two-time defending MEAC champions.

"The thing I told my guys during the game is we've had a heck of a season," Jones said. "Walk out of that locker room, don't hold your head low. We've done some things that are hard to do at our level with the amount of games that we've won and the record that we've had, so when you walk out of here, walk out of here as a champion."

"At the end of the day, we're still champions," added senior guard Joe Bryant. "We still made school history, the first team to win outright regular season and MEAC Tournament champions."

Bryant, a Norfolk native and Lake Taylor High School graduate, led the Spartans with 15 points. He capped off his college career by earning MEAC Player of the Year and the conference tournament's Most Outstanding Player. The senior guard also played in three NCAA Tournament games during his career.

"I love these guys, love the coaches," Bryant said after the loss. "I enjoyed this run, but we just fell short."