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Spartans move into 1st with 68-65 win over Bears

Devante Carter was the only player to reach double figures for NSU with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Credit: NSU Athletics

BALTIMORE — Norfolk State erased a nine-point deficit and held on when Morgan State had a chance to win it at the line, securing a 68-65 win on Sunday afternoon in men's basketball action at the Hill Field House.
 
The Spartans faced a nearly double-digit deficit early in the second half, but they chipped away, eventually taking the lead with less than six minutes to go. After the Bears tied it up at 65-65, NSU took a one-point lead, and neither team could add to their total with time ticking down.
 
The Bears had a chance to go ahead with 6.5 seconds left and down by one. But Malik Miller missed both free throws, and the Spartans swept the weekend series.
 
The win put NSU a half game ahead of both Morgan State and Coppin State for first place in the MEAC Northern Division at 7-4. The Spartans improved to 12-7 overall while jumping ahead of both MSU and CSU (6-4 each) in the standings.
 
"We showed a lot of resilience coming back from nine points down," said head coach Robert Jones. "We showed resilience by getting two road wins against the first place team. The players stuck with each other and made winning plays late."
 
Senior Devante Carter was the only player to reach double figures for NSU with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. He made all nine free throw attempts and helped the Spartans shoot 52 percent in the second half.
 
The Bears (11-6 overall) got 21 points and five rebounds from Troy Baxter, 16 of those points in the first half. They shot just 31 percent in the second half as NSU outscored them by six after halftime.
 
Morgan State led by nine with less than 16 minutes to go in the game, but senior Kashaun Hicks knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and a jumper in the lane to spark NSU. They got it down to two, and a fastbreak layup from junior Jalen Hawkins tied the score at 58-58 with 7:39 to go.
 
Carter's layup a few minutes later put NSU ahead, and he hit two free throws with 4:28 left. The Spartans didn't trail again. The Bears scored just once more after that, a 3-point play by Tahj-Malik Campbell with 2:25 left that tied the game at 65-65.
 
Hawkins made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe with 2:01 to go for a one-point edge. The Bears turned it over twice, including when Hicks took a charge on a fastbreak layup attempt from Campbell, before their last second misses at the line.
 
Hicks finished with eight points and five boards, and senior J.J. Matthews added nine points and six rebounds. The Spartans shot 44 percent for the game and overcame 19 turnovers.
 
The Spartans scored the first six points of the game for their largest lead all afternoon. But the Bears countered with a 15-4 run that lasted four and a half minutes and made it 19-14 in their favor. Hawkins sank a 3-pointer, and a 3-point play from sophomore Tyrese Jenkins helped the Spartans go back ahead midway through the opening period.
 
A field goal from Carter put the Spartans ahead by five, but the Bears scored nine of the next 10 points. They did not trail the rest of the half and went into the intermission up 40-37.
 
NSU made 17-of-20 from the free throw line in the first half, 15 more attempts than the Bears. Morgan State had seven more field goals on 12 more attempts before struggling in the second half and shooting 38 percent for the game, 4-of-22 from deep.
 
The Bears outscored NSU 23-13 in second chance points, while the Spartans were +6 on the glass. They also shot 24-of-32 from the charity stripe.
 
NSU will have some time off before finishing the regular season on Feb. 24 at home against Delaware State. Both Morgan State and Coppin State each have two games at DSU to close out MEAC play.