ORANGEBURG, S.C. – Junior Dan Robinson had just one offensive rebound all afternoon, but it came at exactly the right moment for the Norfolk State men’s basketball team. Down nearly the entire second half at South Carolina State, NSU tied it late and went ahead on Robinson’s putback with 20.8 seconds to go as the Spartans came away with a 65-62 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon at the S-H-M Memorial Center.
Robinson got his hands on a miss and had an easy putback over his much-shorter defenders. The victory did not come without some drama, as S.C. State nearly had a last second bucket on its end. The Bulldogs were ultimately called for basket interference on a shot that was probably destined to fall in, and NSU held on for the victory.
Senior Jonathan Wade tallied his second double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds, tying his career high for boards. Junior Zaynah Robinson scored a game-high 23 points as well for a Spartan team that shot slightly less than 40 percent and had 20 turnovers. NSU overcame that to improve to 7-2 in the MEAC and 10-13 overall.
NSU led just once in the second half before taking the lead for good in the last minute. The Bulldogs (7-15, 4-5 MEAC) led by seven with four and a half minutes to go until the Spartans made a late comeback. Zaynah Robinson had his second 3-point play of the half with four minutes to go to close the gap to four, and two more free throws from him and an elbow jumper from Dan Robinson tied the score at 60-60 with a little more than two minutes to go.
Damani Applewhite made both shots on a 1-and-1 to put S.C. State back up by two, and NSU got to within one after Wade made 1-of-2 from the foul line with 55.6 seconds left. After a Bulldog miss, the Spartans got the ball back on offense. They could not convert on the first shot down low, but Dan Robinson was there for the putback with 20.8 left. That put the Spartans ahead 63-62, but it also gave S.C. State plenty of time to work its magic.
The Bulldogs nearly did, as they looked to have a potential bucket on a shot attempt from Edward Stephens. The ball took one bounce off the rim and went straight up, but Tashombe Riley was called for basket interference with the ball above the cylinder with 2.8 seconds left. Wade then made both shots from the charity stripe on the other end for the final three-point margin. NSU never led by more than three during the entire game and only led for 4:22 out of a total of 40 minutes.
Zaynah Robinson shot 8-of-16 from the field, as well as 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, with a career-high six steals. Wade overcame a poor shooting day by hitting 12-of-14 from the free throw line. Junior Jordan Butler also reached double figured in rebounds with 11 while also adding four blocks. NSU made 24-of-32 from the free throw line, compared to a 10-of-13 effort for the Bulldogs.
South Carolina State started the game by scoring seven of the first nine points of the contest, but the Spartans countered with a 9-1 run to take the early advantage. Neither team had a bucket for nearly four minutes until Greg Mortimer’s elbow jumper for the Bulldogs broke a 19-19 tie.
Mortimer then nailed a trey on the next possession, and the Bulldogs held the Spartans without a field goal for seven and a half minutes. Butler finally broke the drought when he caught a lob over top of the defense from Dan Robinson, but NSU still trailed by just two at that point. Mortimer drained a long two-pointer, and then junior Micah Goss answered with a trey on the Spartan end to keep it a one possession game.
Eaves scored the last eight points of the first period for the Bulldogs, who took a 37-30 into halftime. NSU had 13 turnovers in the first half, and Eaves had 14 of his 16 overall points in the first half. Riley had 11 points and seven rebounds, and James Richardson also scored 11 for the Bulldogs.
A notorious second-half team, the Spartans closed the gap to just one early in the second period thanks to buckets from Dan Robinson and Butler and a 6-of-6 effort from the foul line in the early going. Zaynah Robinson then drained a tough fadeaway jumper to put the Spartans ahead by a 42-41 score with 14:34 on the clock.
That marked the only lead for NSU in the second half until less than a minute to go. The Bulldogs took the lead right back after Robinson’s bucket, with Richardson scoring on back-to-back possessions, including a nice alley-oop dunk in traffic that got the lead back up to five. Robinson answered with his first of two three-point plays before the Bulldogs pushed ahead by seven, 56-49, with nine minutes remaining. They still led by seven, tied for their largest lead of the game, until NSU won the game at the end. NSU shot 19-of-48 for the game (39.6 percent), slightly worse than S.C. State (24-of-60, 40.0 percent). The Spartans countered by going to the line more often and posting a 35-30 edge on the glass.