NORFOLK, Va. (NSUSpartans.com) - The Norfolk State men's basketball team took a big step toward capturing the MEAC regular season title with a statement win over the No. 2 team on Monday night. The Spartans led by double digits for nearly 29 minutes in a 76-58 win over North Carolina A&T at Joseph Echols Hall.
NSU held the Aggies to just 32 percent shooting while improving to 11-1 in the conference and 16-11 overall. The second-place Aggies fell to 9-3 in the MEAC and 14-12 overall. Both teams have just four games left in the regular season. After Monday night, every other team in the league has at least five conference losses now.
It was a night in which the Spartans made nearly 48 percent from the field and led for more than 14 and a half minutes altogether. They used a big run early in the game to take control for good, going ahead by 20 late in the second half.
Junior Steven Whitley nearly came up with a triple-double, tallying 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting with 11 assists and eight rebounds. Senior Alex Long totaled 17 points on 7-of-13 field goal attempts with seven boards, and junior Nic Thomas contributed 12 points, all in the second half.
The Spartans got going thanks to a 22-5 run that lasted more than seven minutes near the start of the contest. Whitley had three buckets during that time, and Thomas had a 4-point play as well. He later finished the run with a trey in transition, giving the Spartans a 24-11 advantage with nine minutes left in the half.
Whitley had two more buckets as the first period wound down, and layups by freshman C.J. Kelly and sophomore Kyonze Chavis put the Spartans ahead by 17 at the break, 38-21.
The Aggies made just 22 percent in the first half.
NSU led by 19 right out of the gate in the second half. For the Aggies, Amari Hamilton hit a couple of 3-pointers, and Ronald Jackson's fastbreak dunk at 14:25 got them to within 12. But NSU senior Derrik Jamerson Jr. knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to keep NSU ahead by at least that 12 point margin. The Spartans later went back ahead by 19 on a pair of dunks by Long and a trey from senior Armani Branch.
Up 61-42 at that point with 6:50 left, the Spartans extended their lead to 20 on a couple more buckets by Long. They led by as much as 21 late in the game.
Hamilton, who did not play the first half, finished with 14 points thanks in part to four 3-pointers. Kameron Langley also totaled 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting with six rebounds and five assists. Jackson ended the night with 10 points and six rebounds as well.
The Spartans held big advantages in several scoring categories, including points in the paint (44-22) and fastbreak points (16-4). They also outscored the Aggies in points off turnovers (14-8) and second-chance points (10-4).
Branch and Jamerson each finished with nine points and five rebounds, and the duo combined for 7-of-9 shooting from the floor.
The Spartans will head to Morgan State next Saturday to start the four-game stretch to close out the regular season.