NORFOLK, Va. – No. 4-seeded Norfolk State women’s basketball exited the 2018 MEAC Women’s Basketball Tournament early, losing 51-48 to No. 13-seeded Savannah State in the first round at the Scope Arena on Monday. The Spartans (18-11) could not hit enough shots to advance, shooting only 27.6-percent from the floor.
NSU also struggled behind the 3-point arc and at the foul line. The Spartans made 15.8-percent of their tries from deep and managed only a 59.1-percent accuracy from the charity stripe. Once again, the Lady Tigers (5-24) received an excellent outing for second team All-MEAC honoree Kaylee Allen, who poured in 21 points and collected five steals, three assists and two blocks. In her three games against Norfolk State this season, Allen scored a total of 77 points.
Kayla Roberts paced the Spartans with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting and six rebounds. The All-MEAC first-teamer filled the stat sheet with three assists, two steals and one block. Raven Russell was the only other player to reach double digits in scoring and had 10 to go with three steals. The Spartans shot 50-percent from the floor in the opening frame, made all six of its free throws and led 21-16.
Savannah State led 7-2 less than 90 seconds into the game on four early free throws by Allen and a Heniaya Moton trey. The Spartans then tied the game on a Roberts’ 3-pointer and an Armani Franklin jumper. Norfolk State led 13-12 with 4:03 to play before going on a 6-0 run. Khadedra Croker scored on back-to-back possessions to put her team ahead 19-12 with 2:32 remaining in the period. Allen closed the first-quarter scoring with two free throws with just over one minute remaining to shave the deficit to five points.
Roberts opened the second quarter with consecutive baskets to give the Spartans their largest lead of the game, 25-16, but in the blink of an eye a potential NSU runaway transformed into a tie game. The Lady Tigers made treys on three-straight possessions to knot the score at 25-25. Allen bookended a Nadia Farmer 3-pointer with two long-range shots.
Norfolk State’s lead was restored on Robert’s layup with 4:54 to play, but Farmer’s second trey of the period put SSU ahead 28-27. The Lady Tigers forced a turnover on the next possession, and Allen scored in the paint to give Savannah State a 30-27 lead with under three minutes left in the half. Savannah State protected that three-point lead for the remainder of the quarter and went to halftime on top, 32-29.
The 3-point arc defined the second quarter. Savannah State made four treys on 44.4-percent shooting, while the Spartans misfired on all four of their attempts. Roberts was the only NSU player to record a field goal in the second period and scored six of the Spartans’ eight points in the frame.
The final 20 minutes were played to a draw as Savannah State held on to its three-point advantage. NSU tied the score once in the second half but never led. Both sides shot below 30 percent in the half, with the Spartans making only 20-percent (6-of-30) of their shots. The Lady Tigers shot 26.1-percent in the second half and did not make a 3-pointer.
Savannah State scored the first four points of the third quarter and led 36-29 with 8:31 to play in the frame. The Spartans trimmed the lead to three some two minutes later, but SSU was ahead 40-34 with 2:40 on the clock. Roberts made two free throws inside of two minutes to pull NSU to within four points. After an offensive foul by SSU, Russell hit from long range to cut the deficit to a single point at 40-39. Alexxus Sowell answered with a layup on the next possession to send the game to the fourth quarter, 42-39.
Savannah State’s lead hovered between four and six points in the first part of the fourth quarter before a Russell trey made it a two-point game at 46-44 with 4:07 to play. SSU made two free throws on its next possession, then Norfolk State netted four-straight to tie the game. Russell made a pair of free throws as part of a 4-of-4 outing from the line. Twenty-eight seconds later, Alexys Long knocked down a jump shot to knot the score at 48-all with 2:17 to play. That proved to be the final field goal of the game as Savannah State scored the last three points on free throws.
Down just one point with 13 seconds remaining, Long had a clean look at a trey from the left corner, but the junior could not will the ball through the net. Sowell grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled. The freshman made the first shot at the line but missed the second. However, SSU grabbed the miss and earned two more shots from the charity stripe. The Lady Tigers split their free throws again, giving NSU a chance to tie the game with 4.9 seconds remaining. After taking a full timeout to advance the ball, the Spartans got the shot they were looking for, but Roberts’ game-tying 3-pointer did not find its target.
Norfolk State recorded six blocked shots on Monday – three coming from Croker. The Suffolk, Virginia native scored six points on 3-of-5 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds. As a team, the Spartans out-rebounded SSU 47-33. NSU had 18 offensive boards but scored only seven second-chance points. With the win, Savannah State advances to the quarterfinals, where it will play No. 12-seeded Florida A&M, a 69-64 victor over No. 5-seeded Howard on Monday, at 2 p.m. on Thursday.