NORFOLK, Va. – Norfolk State women’s basketball saw its nine-game win streak come to an end at the hands of Bethune-Cookman in a 58-51 defensive showdown at Echols Hall on Saturday afternoon. The setback is the first for the Spartans since a 51-46 road loss to East Carolina on Dec. 2. NSU (11-5, 4-1 MEAC) shot conference season lows across the board, managing 38.2 percent from the field, 8.3 from 3-point range and 42.1 from the free throw line.
The Lady Wildcats (14-4, 6-0) likewise struggled from 3-point range, making just three of 15 attempts, but capitalized on their free throw attempts, going 13-of-18 from the charity stripe. Kayla Roberts logged her second double-double of the season with a game-high 16 points and 10 rebounds and chipped in a pair each of assists, steals and blocks.
Bethune-Cookman utilized a balanced attack on offence as no player tallied more than Chasimmie Brown’s 11, but six players scored six or more. Brown shared the game high with 10 boards for a double-double of her own. Norfolk State led 7-2 in the early stages of the game as Khadedra Croker returned from a two-game absence to assert her influence on the contest. Croker scored the first points of the game on a layup at the 9:07 mark and blocked Brown just over a minute later.
Croker finished the day with a game-high five blocks and has blocked multiple shots in 13 contests this season. Roberts knocked down a 3-pointer, and Raven Russell laid it in to give the Spartans an early five-point lead, but Bethune-Cookman grabbed control of the period by scoring 17 of the final 18 points. Angel Golden’s jumper tied the game at 8-8 with 4:53 to play in the first quarter. Only 43 seconds later, Lyndsey Edwards hit a layup to put B-CU ahead for good.
The Lady Wildcats pushed their lead to 22-8 at the 7:41 mark of the second quarter to cap a 20-1 run that spanned two quarters and lasted 9:29. Roberts broke the run on a jumper with 7:16 to go, and Norfolk State proceeded to go on a 16-4 run over the next 4:45 to pull to within two points, 26-24. The Spartans scored seven straight, with Raven Russell providing five, before Emily Williams countered with a trey. Following two free throws by De’Janaire Deas, Ashanti Hunt split a pair at the line, and NSU went on another 7-0 spurt.
With possession and a chance to tie or take the lead, NSU turned the ball over, and B-CU scored the final four points of the half to carry a 30-24 lead into the break. Russell scored nine of her 13 points in the first half while missing only one of her five shot attempts. Roberts contributed eight before the break. The Spartans still faced a six-point deficit after the first five minutes of the third quarter, but the Lady Wildcats stretched their lead to 11, 39-28, with 3:35 left to play in the period – their only double-digit advantage of the second half.
Undaunted, Norfolk State scored eight of the period’s final 10 points to cut the deficit to five. Russell shifted momentum with a fastbreak layup at the 2:48 mark, and Russell, Croker and Gabrielle Swinson all provided buckets during the run. Less than four minutes into the fourth quarter, NSU cut the deficit to a point and appeared poised to retake the lead. Roberts’ field goal in the paint made the score 43-42 with 6:46 to go. The Spartans forced a miss on the next defensive possession, but an offensive rebound by Williams led to a crucial trey by Golden.
Bethune-Cookman led by five with four minutes to go, and twice the Spartans made it a one-possession game. Swinson pulled NSU to within three points, 47-44, at the 3:28 mark, but Golden responded to push the lead back to five. Less than a minute later, Croker scored to again make it a three-point ballgame, but NSU would never that close again as Bethune-Cookman iced the game away with a 5-of-6 performance from the free throw line in the final minutes.
B-CU out-rebounded the Spartans 41-35 and enjoyed a 14-9 edge in second-chance points. NSU won the block battle for the 14th time this year with eight rejections. Roberts notched a pair of blocks and now needs only three more to tie Beverly Davis atop the career blocks ledger.