ORANGEBURG, S.C. — A 7-0 run over the final 75 seconds of the game broke a 50-all deadlock and propelled Norfolk State women’s basketball to a 57-50 win over South Carolina State at the S-H-M Memorial Center in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The Spartans (11-8, 6-0 MEAC) led for the majority of the game – 30 minutes and 20 seconds in total – but were unable to gain lasting separation from the Lady Bulldogs (9-10, 2-3 MEAC) until the dying seconds of the game. Prior to the final 60 seconds, NSU managed to build a lead of six points twice only to have S.C. State storm back both times.
Alexys Long provided the final, and most-significant, field goal of the game. With 1:15 left in the fourth quarter, the senior from Clinton, Maryland knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing to put NSU ahead 53-50. With Long already in her shooting motion, the Lady Bulldogs fouled Khadedra Croker, resulting in two free throws. Croker hit both foul shots for a back-breaking five-point possession.
Raven Russell provided additional insurance when she knocked down two free throws with 28 seconds remaining. The Spartans’ clutch free throw shooting came on a night where, on the whole, NSU struggled from the line. For the game, Norfolk State made only nine of its 18 attempts at the charity stripe but were 7-for-10 in the second half.
Long’s dagger was the fifth trey by the Spartans in the second half. Norfolk State shook off a cold start from deep – going 2-of-6 in the first three periods – with a 4-of-7 showing beyond the arc in the final quarter. Led by Long (2-of-3) and Kendrea Dawkins (3-of-4), NSU shot 46.2 percent from long range.
A slow start to the game saw Norfolk State lead 9-8 after the first 10 minutes. The Spartans held the Lady Bulldogs without a field goal for the first 5:48 of the game, but NSU managed just three points in that same amount of time. When Kyesha Lewis finally broke SCSU’s field goal drought, the score was tied at 3-3.
Both sides exchanged baskets and leads for the final 2:49 of the period. A trey by Ester Udonsi put the Lady Bulldogs up 8-6 with 1:50 left to play, but Long answered inside the final 25 seconds to put NSU ahead again. Croker netted six points in the second quarter as the Spartans built a 23-18 halftime lead. Croker ended the game with a game-high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including her first-ever trey, and chipped in five rebounds and an assists as well.
NSU scored six of the period’s first eight points and appeared to be pulling away. A takeaway and transition layup by Danyael Goodhope put the Spartans up 15-10, but Udonsi’s trey cut the deficit back to two points with 6:46 left in the half.
The Lady Bulldogs tied the score at 17-17 with 2:02 on the clock, but a 6-0 run restored control of the game by NSU. All six of those points came in the paint, with layups from Jameila Barrett, Croker and Long.
The Spartans shut out Taylor Brown, SCSU’s leading scorer, in the first half. In only five minutes of gameplay, Brown missed her only shot and missed all three free throws after she was fouled in the act of shooting a trey. Udonsi paced the Lady Bulldogs in the first half with eight points and both of the team’s 3-pointers.
In the third period, Norfolk State rebuilt its six-point lead, only to see S.C. State jump back ahead near the close of the quarter. The Lady Bulldogs out-scored the Spartans 18-14 in the frame despite NSU’s 50-percent shooting in the quarter.
Field goals from Long and Croker put NSU ahead 30-24 with 5:08 left in the quarter before a big 3-pointer from Jakayvea Akins cut the deficit in half. Dana Echols pushed the lead back to five points, but the Spartans’ lead slipped to just one point at 32-31 with 2:59 remaining. Croker stemmed the tide with her first-career trey after firing away with the shot clock running low. After that shot, SCSU scored the next four for its first lead since the 1:50 mark of the first quarter. However, the lead was short-lived as Long sank a pair of free throws inside the final half-minute to make the score 37-36.
The Spartans fell behind by four early in the fourth, but stormed back late to secure the win. Norfolk State dialed in offensively in the quarter, shooting 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) in the frame, and 4-of-7 from deep. Dawkins did not miss in the fourth, hitting all three of her 3-pointers for nine points in as many minutes of time on the court. Dawkins ended the game with 11 points and five rebounds for her fourth double-digit scoring outing since MEAC play began.
SCSU scored the first five points in the quarter for its largest lead of the game at 41-37. After missing its first three shots, NSU hit on the next three to lead 44-41. Russell and De’Janaire Deas scored in the paint, and Dawkins hit her first trey of the period. Rhein Beamon answered Dawkins with a trey of her own to tie the score, but Dawkins drained another 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. S.C. State took its final lead of the game at 48-47 with 5:01 remaining after scoring on back-to-back trips down the court.
As had been the case throughout the quarter, Dawkins conjured a big 3-pointer to make the score 50-48 with 4:33 remaining, and the score stayed the same until Brown laid it in to knot the score with 2:29 on the clock. Norfolk State turned the Lady Bulldogs over in its next two defensive possessions, setting up Long’s clutch bucket.
Norfolk State held a 36-25 advantage in the rebounding battle. Three Spartans grabbed five or more boards, led by Echols’ game-high six. Echols also assisted on five field goals.
Both sides combined for 35 turnovers and scored 16 points each off opponent giveaways. NSU turned the ball over 18 times, its most in a game since also committing 18 turnovers against Delaware State on Jan. 5.
Two Lady Bulldogs broke double figures, led by Beamon’s 13. Ester chipped in 10, and SCSU’s other three starters managed only nine points on 4-of-14 shooting. With the victory, Norfolk State matches the 1995-96 team for its best start to conference play in 23 years. The Spartans are just one of two remaining teams with an unblemished MEAC record.