NORFOLK, Va. – Matt Scott knocked down a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left to give Niagara a comeback 85-82 win over the Norfolk State men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon at Joseph Echols Hall. In NSU’s last non-conference home game of the year, the Purple Eagles erased an 18-point second-half deficit late in the contest and then came out on top after a back-and-forth last few minutes.
Niagara never led until there was less than four minutes left in the contest. And that came after the completion of a 29-9 run that lasted almost exactly 10 minutes. Scott knocked down a couple of free throws at the 3:33 mark for a 76-74 advantage. Still, NSU had the win in its grasp. Junior Derrik Jamerson Jr. hit a pair of 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to put the Spartans back up by four. They still led 82-79 with 55 seconds left after senior Preston Bungei converted a jump shot in the lane.
Niagara’s Kahlil Dukes knocked down a running 3-pointer from the left wing on the next possession to tie the score. NSU had a chance after gathering the rebound on its own miss, but a turnover with 5.1 seconds left gave the Purple Eagles one last shot. After Niagara inbounded the ball in front of NSU’s bench, Dukes found Scott on the left wing for a high-arching attempt over the defense that found nothing but net.
The Spartans could only get off a heave from beyond halfcourt after inbounding the ball with 0.5 seconds to go. Jamerson led NSU with 17 points, shooting 5-of-6 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 overall to go with six rebounds. Bungei added 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting with a game-high nine rebounds.
The Spartans had the contest in control from the start. They scored the first nine points of the game to force Niagara’s first timeout. The Purple Eagles cut the deficit to 13-10 before freshman Mastadi Pitt knocked down a 3-pointer from way outside the top of the arc with the shot clock winding down. Junior Alex Long and sophomore Steven Whitley then combined for 12 straight points for NSU, and Bungei’s off-balance jumper made it 29-18 with 7:44 left in the half.
After Scott sank a pair of treys for Niagara, the Spartans scored seven straight to open a 36-24 advantage. Niagara scored eight straight to get to within three, but the Spartans closed the half on an 11-3 run to open a 51-40 lead going into the locker room. Senior Kyle Williams scored seven of those 11 points in the closing stretch. He finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 3-of-6 from deep, with three rebounds and three assists. Long also reached double figures in scoring with 11 while adding eight boards.
Early in the second half, with NSU up by nine, the Spartans scored nine straight, including five from Bungei, to push the advantage to 65-47 with 13:40 on the clock. It marked the largest lead of the game, but Niagara had the answer. Marvin Prochet had nine points during a 16-0 run that cut the margin to just two. Jamerson finally ended that spurt with a trey from the right wing. The 16-0 spurt ended up becoming part of the larger 29-9 run that led to the end-of-game sequence.
Scott finished with 20 points on just 5-of-9 shooting, 4-of-6 from deep. Prochet added 14 points after hitting 4-of-7 from the floor with six rebounds and three assists. He also made 3-of-5 from 3-point land, helping the Purple Eagles convert 12-of-25 for the game. They made 8-of-12 in the second half after starting the game off slow. They held the Spartans to just 31 points and 38 percent shooting after halftime. Niagara made 58 percent overall in the second half (14-of-24) and finished 26-of-54 for the game (48.1 percent).
NSU shot 27-of-61 overall (44.3 percent), including 12-of-21 from 3-point range. Niagara held a slight edge in points in the paint, 28-20. Dukes, who came in averaging 22 points per game, finished with 12, while Kevin Larkin added 10. Whitley totaled nine points and three steals with a career-high tying nine assists. He also made all four of his free throw attempts to help Norfolk State to a 16-of-19 night from the line. All but three of those attempts, though, came in the first half.