Norfolk State locks down on defense, runs away from South Carolina State 78-54

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – The Norfolk State men’s basketball team made better than 50 percent overall and held South Carolina State to less than 30 percent shooting to pull away from the Bulldogs 78-54 on Saturday afternoon at the S-H-M Memorial Center.

NSU’s Kyle Williams.

A four-point ballgame at the break, NSU outscored the Bulldogs by 20 in the second half. The Spartans shot nearly 61 percent during that time to pull away. A 20-4 run in the last eight minutes of the game ultimately pushed the lead past 20.

Freshman Mastadi Pitt hit 7-of-12 from the field for a game-high 17 points, while sophomore Steven Whitley made all three of his 3-point attempts and 6-of-9 overall for 16 points. He also added six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

He and junior Alex Long each had six boards, leading to a 44-32 edge on the glass. Long also chipped in with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and senior Kyle Williams added 13 on 5-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-6 from deep.

For the game, the Spartans connected on 31-of-59 (52.5 percent), including 11-of-25 from 3-point range. That included a 17-of-28 overall effort in the second half.

Once the Spartans went ahead a few minutes into the game, they never trailed again. The Bulldogs, however, kept the game close until that closing run by NSU.

Three 3-pointers in the first five minutes helped the Spartans build an eventual 15-5 lead to start the game. A couple of buckets by Pitt extended the advantage to 14, 23-9, with more than eight minutes to go in the half. It marked the largest lead until Norfolk State pulled away at the end.

The Bulldogs countered with a 10-3 run to cut the NSU lead to seven. A couple of buckets by S.C. State’s Justin Jones closed the gap even more, 33-29, late in the half. It remained a four-point ballgame going into the locker room, 35-31.

The Spartans scored the first seven points of the second half to go back up by double digits. At one point, Williams and Whitley had scored 14 of NSU’s 16 second-half points. Pitt’s 3-pointer right after that pushed the advantage to 54-41 with 11:17 left.

The Bulldogs were within eight three times after that, the last with 8:18 to go on Janai Rayner-Powell’s layup. Up 58-50 at that point, the Spartans held SCSU to just 1-of-10 shooting with three turnovers during NSU’s big closing run.

Damani Applewhite led the Bulldogs with 14 points and 10 rebounds, their only player in double figures. Most of his scoring came at the free throw line, where he shot 10-of-12. For the game, the Bulldogs made 19-of-28 from the charity stripe.

They shot 15-of-51 (29.4 percent) from the floor, including just 5-of-20 from deep.

Norfolk State held a 26-14 edge in points in the paint. Sophomore Nic Thomas contributed nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, and junior Derrik Jamerson Jr. added eight points.

NSU closes out the road trip at Savannah State on Monday for an 8 p.m. contest at Tiger Arena.