NORFOLK, Va. (NSUSpartans.com) – The trio of Devante Carter, Kashaun Hicks and Joe Bryant Jr. combined for 56 points to lead the Norfolk State men’s basketball team to a 74-69 win over Morgan State on Saturday afternoon at the Hill Field House.
Carter scored 20 and Hicks and Bryant each had 18 as the Spartans closed the gap on the first-place Bears in the standings. Norfolk State improved to 6-4 in the MEAC as well as 11-7 overall.
Morgan State fell to 11-5 overall, 6-3 in the league despite getting 25 points from De’Torrion Ware.
No other player for the Spartans scored more than six points. They held MSU to 39 percent shooting and won despite committing 18 turnovers and picking up 27 fouls.
“It was a good bounce back win against a quality team,” said head coach Robert Jones. “Kashaun Hicks played like a player should late in his senior season. Now we need to duplicate that same effort tomorrow.”
The Bears led just once in the second half, but NSU’s lead was never more than six until the last minute of play. The top three scoring trio scored 38 of the team’s 40 points in the second period.
That only lead for MSU came a little more than a minute into the second half. Carter had a pair of 3-point plays, and Bryant had one as well to push the Spartans ahead by six. Bryant hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Hicks knocked down a pair himself as NSU continued to have an answer every time the Bears closed the gap to a single possession.
Hicks drove the baseline for a dunk to break a 61-61 tie, and he made a layup and two free throws as NSU went ahead 69-63 with less than two minutes to go. The Bears converted just one field goal in the last seven and a half minutes. NSU led by as much as seven in the last minute of play.
Bryant and Hicks combined to shoot 7-of-13 from deep, and Hicks made 6-of-9 overall. They each grabbed a team-high five rebounds.
Hicks had a pair of 3-pointers near the start of the game as well, the second of which started a 9-0 run for the Spartans that gave them an early six-point edge. The Bears scored nine of the next 11 points to get the lead back. It also marked the first of six lead changes over the course of several minutes of play.
The last of those came when Bryant hit a 3-pointer right before the buzzer for a 26-25 Spartan advantage with five minutes left in the half. Carter’s step-back jumper put NSU ahead by five a few minutes after that, and the Spartans went into the half ahead by four, 34-30.
NSU was +6 on the glass in the first 20 minutes against the best rebounding team in the MEAC.
The Spartans made 18-of-24 from the free throw line while shooting 43 percent overall.
The normally sure-thing Bears missed 12 of their 36 free throw attempts. Troy Baxter was the only other player in double figures with 13 points. Malik Miller and Trevor Moore each totaled seven points and five rebounds.
NSU and MSU will play game 2 of this weekend’s series on Sunday at 2 p.m.