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Second half comeback lifts NSU women over App State, 70-65

Deja Francis led the Spartans with 18 points, while Kierra Wheeler's 12 points and 10 rebounds secured her third double-double of the season.
Credit: NSU Athletics

BOONE, N.C. — NSU outscored App State 14-4 in the third quarter on Thursday, fueling a 70-65 come-from-behind victory, Norfolk State's second consecutive win on the road.
Deja Francis led the Spartans with 18 points, while Kierra Wheeler's 12 points and 10 rebounds secured her third double-double of the season. Makoye Diawara added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
The Spartans crashed the glass early and were rewarded for their efforts. Kierra Wheeler, Diawara, and Mahoganie Williams scored NSU's first three-buckets off second-chance opportunities.
The Spartans kept the quick start going, using another trio of layups to take a 12-7 lead late in the first quarter. Both teams had little trouble getting shots to fall early on, as the Spartans took a 20-18 edge into the second period.
Wheeler got the quarter going with a pair of free throws, but App State used a 14-0 run from there to take control. Mountaineers guard Janay Sanders scored 16 points in the first half, shooting 9-of-11 from the free throw line.
Francis banked in an acrobatic jumper with a foul, converting the ensuing free throw and slowing down App State's momentum. Da'naijah Williams drained her first 3-pointer of the game with under 15 seconds left in the quarter, cutting the Mountaineer's halftime lead to nine.
While the second quarter had primarily swung in App State's favor, Norfolk State patiently got itself back in the game with an incredible defensive third quarter. App State scored two points across the first seven minutes of the second half, finishing with just four points for the entire quarter.
As the Norfolk State defense continued to get stops, the Spartans slowly closed the gap on the other end. Camille Downs hit a mid-range jumper in transition, before draining a 3-pointer less than a minute later to tie the game at 47. After Sanders gave App State the lead again late in the quarter, Francis got the Spartans back even with a buzzer-beating layup.
A few early turnovers put the Spartans behind in the fourth quarter, but scores from Niya Fields and Wheeler caught them back up. Fields drained a clutch three soon after, before Downs gave the Spartans their first lead since the second quarter with a floater in the paint.
As the game turned into crunch time, Francis rose to the occasion. The graduate guard pulled down a rebound and sped down the court for a transition layup, before scoring out of a timeout on the Spartans' next possession.
The bucket gave NSU a four-point cushion with under two minutes to play, which the Spartans' defense would hold secure, before Diawara scored inside on a fastbreak. App State pulled within one possession multiple times in the final 30 seconds, but NSU came up clutch on the other end. Diawara and Fields each knocked down a pair of free throws, closing out the comeback win.
NSU now takes a 3-1 record into the Hostilo Hoops Community Classic, a three-day multi-team event in Savannah, Ga. The Spartans face Purdue Fort Waye on Monday at 4:30 p.m., before battling UT Martin and Marshall on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

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