NORFOLK, Va. (NSU Sports Information) – MEAC play got off to a solid start for the Norfolk State men’s basketball team, as the Spartans took care of Bethune-Cookman by an 85-72 margin on Saturday evening at Joseph Echols Hall.
NSU led by as much as 25 in the second half after going up by 14 at the break. Three different players scored at least 17 points for the Spartans, who improved to 5-11 overall.
In both teams’ MEAC opener, Norfolk State led almost the whole way through. A big first half, in which NSU dominated on the boards, was enough to overcome B-CU’s stronger second. In the end, the Wildcats fell to 6-9.
Sophomore Joe Bryant Jr. added 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting to lead all scorers. Senior Steven Whitley totaled 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals, and fellow senior Jermaine Bishop contributed 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Bishop and Bryant combined for six of the team’s eight 3-pointers.
Whitley started off the game well. He had several buckets, including a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, to help NSU take the early lead. Junior Kashaun Hicks pushed the advantage to three on a fastbreak layup following a defensive board, and Whitley made it 22-18 on a free throw with 8:50 left in the first half.
A 3-pointer from Hicks and a dunk from junior Efstratios Kalogerias started a 17-4 run for the Spartans, giving them a 39-24 lead with 2:50 to go. Bishop had a pair of 3-pointers as NSU scored 10 in a row to close out the run.
The Spartans went into the half up 43-29, holding a 23-8 edge in rebounding. B-CU, however, was +12 on the glass in the second.
Norfolk State pushed the advantage to 18 early in the second half, and Bryant scored six points later on during a 10-0 spurt. After being up by more than 20 with 12 minutes in the game, NSU then went ahead by 24 thanks in part to a 3-pointer from Bishop and three more points from Whitley.
Bryant pushed the advantage to 25, the largest of the game, with less than nine minutes to go on a drive to the hoop. The Wildcats cut the deficit to less than 20 and scored the last eight points of the game for the final 13-point margin.
The Spartans shot 21-of-25 from the free throw line and 44 percent overall from the floor. They held the Wildcats to 39 percent shooting in the second half, 42 percent for the game.
B-CU outscored the Spartans in points in the paint and second-chance points, including 20-10 and 17-3, respectively, in the second half. Cletrell Pope totaled 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting with seven rebounds, while Malik Maitland (13 points) and Joe French (12) also reached double figures.
The Spartans were +6 in turnover margin for the game.
NSU will next travel to Coppin State for a Monday night contest at CSU’s Physical Education Complex. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m