DOVER, Del. – As has been the case for most of conference play, the Norfolk State men’s basketball team saw a double-digit second-half lead dwindle down to low single digits, or as was the case of Saturday afternoon , Feb. 23, down to zero.
Against Delaware State at Memorial Hall in the last road game of the year, the Spartans did just enough in the end to exorcise some state of Delaware demons and escape with a 60-56 win.
The victory broke a seven-game, nine-year losing streak at Memorial Hall, the smallest gym in the conference but one of the toughest to play in because of its cozy setting. NSU secured a first-round bye in the MEAC tournament with the win and tied last year’s team for the most conference victories in a season.
At 13-0 in the MEAC, NSU is one of just five schools left in the nation undefeated in conference play after Miami fell on Saturday. NSU won its 12th in a row, now the fifth-longest win streak in the nation. NSU also improved to 18-10 overall on the year.
Those win streaks almost came to an end despite NSU leading by 15 at the half and by as much as 17 early in the second half. It marked the 12th time in 13 conference games NSU had a double-digit second-half lead. The Spartans, though, could not handle the full-court pressure the Hornets came out of the locker room with after the intermission.
Delaware State (12-14, 7-5 MEAC) tied it up twice with less than eight minutes left and got to within two with 32.1 seconds to go when Amere May hit a deep 3-pointer from the right wing. Pendarvis Williams missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on NSU’s next possession, and May launched a 3-pointer with six seconds to go from several feet beyond the top of the arc.
May, though, could not find the bottom of the net this time, and Williams made DSU pay with a pair of free throws on the other end with 5.4 seconds left for the final four-point margin.
Williams led all scorers with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while junior Brandon Goode tallied 16 points on 7-of-11 field goal attempts with eight rebounds and three blocks.
Tyshawn Bell (13 points) and Marques Oliver (12 points, 11 rebounds) paced the way for the Hornets.
Delaware State outscored NSU 23-6 after intermission to tie it up at 41-41 with a little less than nine minutes to go in the game. The Spartans had 10 of their 14 turnovers in the second stanza, including several that wasted prime scoring opportunities.
Senior Kris Brown hit a 3-pointer from the left key to put NSU back on top, but Bell answered with a trey of his own. Knotted at 44-44 – Delaware State never led in the game and only tied it up those two times – NSU went on a 9-2 run, capped by a layup from junior Jamel Fuentes at 3:24, to go up by seven, 53-46.
Casey Walker responded with a trey for Delaware State 30 seconds later. After Williams hit what looked like a back-breaking 3-pointer with more than a minute remaining to put NSU back up by seven, though, May hit a running jumper in the lane and then got the Hornets to within two with his 3-pointer before failing to hit the potential go-ahead trey.
NSU shot 47.2 percent for the game on 25-of-53 shooting and held Delaware State to nearly its season average at 22-of-53 (41.5 percent).
Fuentes finished with nine points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Brown was the only other player for NSU in double figures with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including nine points in the second half when Delaware State outscored NSU by 11.
The Spartans scored the first six points of the game and held the Hornets scoreless for nearly five minutes. Williams and Walker exchanged 3-pointers before NSU forced two separate Delaware State timeouts, the latter at 9:58 when Brown’s fastbreak dunk made it 19-9.
Bell’s 3-pointer at 8:27 marked the only field goal for Delaware State in a more than six-minute span. Goode, who had 12 in the first half, scored six straight at one point to put the Spartans up by a 27-15 lead with four minutes left.
Goode’s off-balance layup and a short baseline jumper from Williams marked the final scoring of the first stanza, giving NSU a 33-18 lead at the intermission.
NSU held the rebounding edge by a 36-28 margin and outscored the Hornets 19-6 in second chance points and 40-24 in the paint.
Walker and Tahj Tate each added eight points for the Hornets.
Aside from North Carolina Central, whom NSU has not played, the Spartans have now defeated every MEAC opponent on the road the last two years.
The Spartans finish out the regular season with three straight games at home, beginning with Bethune-Cookman next Saturday at 6 p.m. at Joseph Echols Hall.
Story originally appeared on NSUSpartans.com, Copyright Norfolk State University