NORFOLK, Va. (NSUSpartans.com) - It was a sloppy performance all the way around on Saturday evening at Joseph Echols Hall, but the Norfolk State men's basketball team overcame a poor shooting night to defeat Morgan State 62-57.
The Spartans won despite shooting just 33 percent from the floor. They also earned the victory despite allowing an 18-point second-half lead dwindle down to two late in the contest. But they came out on top and were able to move into a share of first place in the MEAC at 8-2 with idle North Carolina Central.
Senior Jermaine Bishop led all players with 18 points, albeit on a 6-of-17 effort from the floor. He had four of the team's seven 3-pointers with five rebounds. Senior Steven Whitley added 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting with nine boards as NSU improved to 12-13 overall.
To call the Bears' first half awful would be an understatement. MSU (13-14, 7-5 MEAC) made just 2-of-17 from the floor (11.8 percent), going more than 17 minutes without a field goal to close the half. The Bears made 50 percent in the second half, outscoring the Spartans by eight after halftime and more than doubling their first-half production.
NSU led by 13 at the break and looked to be in control early in the second half.
Bishop connected on a pair of 3-pointers early in the stanza to push the lead to 18, 40-22, the largest of the night. The Bears scored eight of the next 10 points to make it a 12-point margin with less than 12 minutes to go. But Spartan freshman Daryl Anderson and junior Spirit Ricks responded with 3-pointers to go back up by 15.
Still ahead by 15 with nine minutes to go, NSU was unable to find the bottom of the net for a big stretch. The Spartans went more than eight minutes without a field goal, and eventually the Bears went on a 12-1 run to get to within four with a little more than a minute remaining.
Bishop's 3-pointer from the top of the key ended the scoring drought and made it 55-48 with less than a minute to go. The Spartans did just enough at the free throw line in the last minute to hold on, including when the Bears were within one possession.
For Morgan State, Malik Miller tallied 12 points and seven rebounds, and Stanley Davis totaled 11 points and 11 boards. MSU held the rebounding advantage, 42-35, but the Bears committed 22 turnovers on the night.
A couple of buckets from sophomore Joe Bryant Jr. helped NSU start the game with a 9-2 lead. After the Bears closed the gap some, the Spartans got six points from junior Devante Carter during a 10-1 run for a 19-8 advantage eight minutes in.
Morgan State's field goal drought continued as the first stanza wound down, and Whitley's three free throws with 0.4 seconds to go gave the Spartans a 30-17 lead going into the half.
The Bears' field goal drought lasted more than 18 minutes until Troy Baxter made a 3-pointer early in the second half. For the evening, they shot nearly 36 percent but just 3-of-15 from deep.
The Spartans finished 7-of-27 from 3-point range but did outscore MSU 21-12 in points off turnovers. Carter was the third NSU player in double figures with 10 points. Bryant contributed nine points, but outside of the top four, the Spartans got just 11 points from the rest of the team.
NSU will close out the weekend by hosting Coppin State on Monday at 8 p.m.