Norfolk State rallies to beat UMES 75-69 for 8th straight win

Zaynah Robinson scores on a mid-range jumper during Saturday's game vs. UMES.

Zaynah Robinson scores on a mid-range jumper during Saturday's game vs. UMES.

NORFOLK, Va. - The Norfolk State men’s basketball team shook off a slow first half and outscored Maryland Eastern Shore by 15 in the second on the way to a 75-69 win on Saturday night at Joseph Echols Hall.

The Spartans shot just 32 percent in the first half and fell behind by nine at the break. But as has been the case throughout most of their current eight-game win streak, the Spartans took over in the second. They outscored MDES 22-8 to start the second period, eventually pulled ahead by eight, and then held off a Hawk rally.

NSU continued to solidify its second-place standing in the MEAC, improving to 9-2 in the conference behind first-place North Carolina Central (9-1) as well as 12-13 overall. Senior Jonathan Wade earned his third straight double-double by posting 21 points and 11 rebounds, hitting 7-of-16 from the floor. He had 16 and nine in the second half alone, and he also made 5-of-9 from 3-point range overall, part of a larger 11-of-26 effort for NSU.

The Hawks dropped to 8-17 overall and 5-5 in league play after shooting just 35 percent from the floor. Bakari Copeland led all players with 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He sank five treys in the game – all in the second half – accounting for five of the team’s 11 3-pointers in the contest.

MDES had a big 22-5 run in the middle of the first half to take control. That came after six lead changes in the early part of the game. The sixth began a 14-3 run, which turned into the larger 22-5 spurt. When it was all said and done, the Hawks led 32-16 with less than four minutes remaining in the first period. It ultimately marked the second time during the eight-game win streak NSU overcame a 16-point deficit.

The Spartans partially dug themselves out of that hole with an 11-2 run, with senior Kerwin Okoro sinking a pair of treys as the MDES lead shrank to seven. Logan McIntosh got the kind bounce on his shot with time ticking down to give the Hawks a 36-27 lead going into the half.

NSU only made 8-of-25 from the floor before hitting nearly 47 percent in the second. Overall, the Spartans connected on 22-of-55 for the night (40.0 percent).

Okoro, meanwhile, broke out of a slump with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting.

It was a complete turnaround in the second half for NSU, which came into the game scoring on average nearly six more points in the second half than the first. On Saturday, the Spartans scored 48 in the second stanza, hitting 46.7 percent from the floor and making 14-of-21 from the line after the intermission.

The period began with Wade sinking two 3-pointers, while Robinson also made a pair from deep as NSU came out of the break on that 22-8 run. Junior Bryan Gellineau made 1-of-2 from the line at the 13:00 mark to put a cap on it and give the Spartans a 49-44 lead.

Wade had a layup and one more 3-pointer, and junior Stavian Allen got the offensive rebound and putback on a free throw miss to push the NSU advantage to eight, 57-49, with 8:39 left in the game. Maryland Eastern Shore was not done, as the Hawks immediately responded with a 10-0 run to take the lead back.

Wade’s trey and two free throws from Okoro put NSU ahead again, but the Hawks got a couple of buckets from Copeland and Derrico Peck to go up by two, 64-62, with 3:48 left. Sophomore Alex Long, though, had a three-point play and made 6-of-6 from the foul line in the last few minutes of the game to hold back the Hawks.

Okoro had perhaps the biggest play, driving to the hoop for two with the shot clock winding down to put NSU ahead by five with less than a minute left. The Spartans made all six of their free throw attempts after that. They also finished the game 20-of-28, double the number of makes and attempts as MDES (10-of-14).

All nine of Long’s points in the game came during those last few minutes of the game. Altogether, NSU outscored the Hawks in the second half, 48-33.

Robinson posted 10 points, seven assists and three steals. Junior Jordan Butler had three of the team’s eight blocks. After turning the ball over 27 time in its last game, NSU had just nine on Saturday.

Maryland Eastern Shore sank just 24-of-68 overall (35.3 percent) but held the rebounding edge, 43-37. Tyler Jones chipped in with 14 points and seven boards. NSU held the team’s second-leading scorer, Ryan Andino, to nine points on 3-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-15 from long range.
NSU will host South Carolina State on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in a contest postponed from January.