GREENSBORO, N.C. (NSUSpartans.com)Down by 15 at the half, the Norfolk State men’s basketball team came roaring back against North Carolina A&T on Thursday afternoon at the Corbett Sports Center. But just when it seemed NSU was ready to pull off a stunner, the Aggies had one last gasp.
Tied with less than 20 seconds left, A&T’s Devonte Boykins nailed a 3-pointer with 8.1 seconds to go to give the Aggies a 71-68 win over the Spartans to complete a highly entertaining second half.
In a contest that was postponed twice by weather, including from Wednesday, the Aggies led 38-23 at the half thanks to a 25-8 run that consumed more than 10 minutes of play. But the Spartans (3-15 overall, 1-2 MEAC) came out of the locker room on fire, using a 22-6 run to take the lead at 45-44 thanks in part to their defense.
The lead changed hands three more times, and the Spartans were last up at 49-48 on a layup by junior Alex Long. NSU held firm even after Denzel Keyes knocked down a pair of 3-pointers after completing a 3-point play, and even after the Aggies (11-8, 4-0 MEAC) were able to push the lead to 62-54
Aaren Edmead’s trey made it an eight-point ballgame with just 5:24 left. The Spartans, though, used a 9-1 run to tie the score at 63-all.
A pair of free throws from Edmead and then a trey from Boykins put the Aggies up by five, 68-63, with just 1:30 to go. Freshman Mastadi Pitt knocked one down from long range 20 seconds later, and sophomore Steven Whitley got a layup in transition with 36.0 on the clock to tie it up.
But after an A&T timeout, Boykins, sank his trey from beyond the right wing, and NSU’s last second shot was off the mark.
Still, the Spartans nearly pulled off the victory thanks to its dominating second half. After converting just 33 percent in the first half, they made 53 percent in the second while holding a 21-10 edge on the glass after the break.
The Aggies also had 11 turnovers in the second half and 19 for the game, allowing the Spartans to outscore them 34-16 in points off turnovers and 23-8 in fastbreak points.
A&T, however, shot 10-of-20 from 3-point range and was called for just nine fouls compared to 21 for NSU. As a result, the Aggies made 17-of-21 from the foul line compared to just 3-of-6 for the Spartans.
Long made 7-of-13 from the floor to lead the Spartans with 15 points while adding three blocks and three steals. Senior Preston Bungei added 12 points, six rebounds and five assists, and senior Kyle Williams totaled 11 points thanks in part to 3-of-6 3-point shooting.
Keyes came off the bench to score a game-high 21 on 7-of-9 shooting. Both he and Boykins made 4-of-6 from the 3-point line, with Boykins finishing with 12 points. Edmead and Davaris McGowens each added 10.
The Spartans had the first two buckets of the game, but no team really took control early until the Aggies used a 9-0 run to build an 18-12 lead nine minutes into the game. However, it became part of that larger 25-8 run for the Aggies that lasted nearly 10 and a half minutes. Included in there was a nearly six-minute stretch in which they scored 10 in a row and held the Spartans scoreless.
Down 34-20 after that big run, NSU got a 3-pointer from Pitt with a little less than a minute left. But a couple of buckets by the Aggies, including a shot by Edmead with four seconds left with his foot just on the 3-point line, made it 38-23 at the half.
For the game, the Spartans shot 28-of-63 (44.4 percent), compared to 48.9 percent for the Aggies on 22-of-45 shooting. Norfolk State made 9-of-23 from 3-point range and had a 32-30 edge on the glass for the game. The Spartans outscored the A&T 38-20 in points in the paint.
Pitt and junior Derrik Jamerson Jr. each added eight points. Jamerson also had six boards and three of NSU’s 12 steals on the day.
The Aggies broke a six-game losing streak in the series, securing their first win over NSU since the 2010-11 season.
The road trip will continue for NSU when the Spartans travel to South Carolina State on Saturday and then Savannah State on Monday.