NORFOLK, Va. (NSUSpartans.com) – Norfolk State surged down the stretch and then held on for an 89-85 win over Morgan State on Sunday afternoon in a MEAC men’s basketball game at Joseph Echols Hall.
NSU trailed by 12 in the second half, but a 15-2 run late in the contest allowed the Spartans to take the lead for good. That stretched their advantage to the largest of the afternoon at 10 points. A flurry of buckets by the Bears late in the game made it a two-point game with less than 30 seconds to go before the Spartans got a late stop.
The Spartans earned a split of the weekend series after MSU won Saturday’s game by four. NSU overcame an eight-point hole in the first half on Sunday and then the double-digit deficit after the Bears had took control early in the second half.
Senior J.J. Matthews led the way with 21 points and seven rebounds, shooting 6-of-9 from the floor as well as 9-of-11 from the free throw line. NSU improved its overall record to 5-4 following the conclusion of both teams’ MEAC opening weekend. Junior Jalen Hawkins added 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“I like our resilience, but our lack of focus at times forces us to use that resilience,” said head coach Robert Jones. “When we got down by 12, we stopped playing defense, stopped sharing the ball. The things we did to get the lead. Credit to Devante (Carter) for overcoming foul trouble and helping change the pace of the game when he re-entered.
“It’s great to get out of here with a win. Morgan State is a good team, so to split with them is a good thing.”
Morgan State fell to 5-3 overall despite 30 points and 10 rebounds from De’Torrion Ware, who made 7-of-10 from deep as part of a 9-of-15 overall day. The Bears finished with 13 3-pointers while shooting 49 percent overall.
The Spartans shot 47 percent for the game and close to 50 percent in the second half, which began with Morgan State taking the lead. The Bears started it off with a 12-3 run, and a short 7-2 run gave them their largest lead of the game at 12 points with 12 and a half minutes to go.
From there it was NSU’s turn to catch fire. Hawkins hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 14-0 run to put the Spartans ahead. Down by three at 68-65 with seven minutes to go, NSU scored nine straight as part of the largest 15-2 run. Senior Devante Carter had three free throws at the end of the run for an 80-70 advantage.
The Bears hit three 3-pointers and six field goals altogether as they closed the gap to two in less than a minute and a half. But after Troy Baxter made it 87-85 with a steal and 3-pointer with 21 seconds left, NSU twice went 1-of-2 from the line while getting a stop in-between.
Carter had 12 points, all in the second half, and junior Joe Bryant Jr. also reached double figures with 12. Bryant and Hawkins each sank three shots from deep as NSU went 9-of-20 from 3-point range.
In a game that featured 10 lead changes, Morgan State pulled ahead by six and then later by eight, 24-16, near the midway point of the first half. The Spartans responded, as a 3-pointer from Hawkins began a 14-2 run. Matthews had five points during that time, and senior Kyonze Chavis closed it out with a couple of buckets to put the Spartans ahead 30-26.
Ware hit a couple of treys for the Bears during a 9-2 run that put them back in the lead. Bryant’s 3-pointer from the right wing tied it up, and the teams went into the half gridlocked at 36-36.
The teams combined for 19 turnovers in the first half but just seven in the second. NSU held an 18-11 in points off turnovers. Chavis chipped in with eight points and six assists.
For the Bears, Trevor Moore (17 points) and Baxter (15 points) also scored in double figures. No other player had more than six.
Norfolk State will host North Carolina Wesleyan for a non-conference game on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Echols Hall before heading to Delaware State next weekend for its next MEAC series.