NORFOLK, Va. – Norfolk State women’s basketball turned in a season-best performance from the offensive end in the floor as the Spartans (3-5) downed Towson 86-76 at Joseph Echols Hall on Tuesday night. NSU set season highs in points scored and shot 48.4 percent (31-of-64) from the floor – its best mark this year. In addition, the Spartans shot 57.1 percent (8-of-14) from 3-point range and topped 50 percent from deep for the first time since going 12-of-24 at Howard on Feb. 6, 2016.
The Spartan’s 86 points are the most since NSU scored 99 in last season’s win over St. Augustine’s. Norfolk State last scored more than 80 points against a D-I opponent in its 83-68 victory over South Carolina State on Feb. 15, 2017. Raven Russell led NSU on Tuesday with season highs in points (22) and assists (seven). As a team, the Spartans notched 21 assists in the victory. The 21 assists are tied for the 10th-most in program history, 17 behind the record set against Fayetteville State on Nov. 20, 1990.
Three Spartans joined Russell in double figures. Gabrielle Swinson scored 18 points in her first game this season on 6-of-9 shooting and chipped in six assists and six boards. Kayla Roberts (12) and Alexys Long (10) also broke double digits in scoring. Swinson’s return supercharged the Spartans as NSU tallied 23 fast-break points in the game. Norfolk State shot a blistering 52.6 percent in the first quarter and led Towson (4-5) 26-20 at the end of the opening 10 minutes. After failing to make a 3-pointer in their previous game, the Spartans made four of their five attempts from deep in the quarter and five of their first 10.
The first period featured four ties and four lead changes, but Norfolk State pulled away late on the strength of a 13-7 run. Nukiya Mayo tied the game at 13-13 with a layup at 5:58. From there, the Spartans scored the next six points. Swinson scored the first four points of that run, and Kendrea Dawkins put NSU on top 19-13 with a layup at the 3:48 mark.
NSU built a nine-point lead with 3:27 left in the second quarter, but Towson closed out the half on a 10-3 run to pull to within two at the break, 40-38. Norfolk State scored its final points of the half on Dawkin’s 3-pointer at the 2:43 mark, and the Tigers scored the next seven on a trey from Etalyia Vogt and two free throws apiece by Raine Bankston and Daijha Thomas.
Towson regained the in the third quarter but trailed 61-60 entering into the fourth quarter. Vogt tied the game at 46-46 on a 3-pointer with 5:57 left in the quarter. Less than a minute later, Mary Cuevas scored on a layup to put the Tigers ahead 48-46.
Khadedra Croker knotted the game with two of her seven points at the 4:58 mark, but Towson pulled ahead again on two free throws by Mayo. Dawkins tied the game at 50-50, and NSU never trailed again. Swinson gave the Spartans a five-point lead at 61-56, but Towson scored the final four points of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, NSU led by 11 early and successfully kept the Tigers at bay. Roberts hit a 3-pointer with 6:10 remaining to give the Spartans a 75-64 lead. Twice Towson pulled to within five points, but Norfolk State ended the game on a 9-2 run to lock down the win.
Roberts loomed large in the final period, scoring eight points on 2-of-3 shooting in the fourth quarter. Dawkins finished the game perfect from the field (4-for-4) and scored a season-high nine points. The sophomore forward also made her only attempt from deep. NSU rejected seven shots on the night, including four by Croker.
Towson out-rebounded the Spartans 45-39 and have won the rebounding battle in all nine of its games. The Tigers held a 19-12 edge in offensive rebounds and scored 18 second-chance points.
Mayo led all Tigers with 20 points and went a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. As a team, Towson shot 86.4 percent (19-of-22) on free throws. Cuevas turned in a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Armani Franklin and Swinson shared the team lead in rebounds with six.