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Spartans cap regular season with win at Morgan State

NSU won Thursday night 68-62 and set a school record by percentage with a 24-of-25 effort from the free throw line (96.0 percent).
Credit: NSU Athletics

BALTIMORE — A near perfect night at the free throw line propelled the Norfolk State men's basketball team to a 68-62 win over Morgan State on Thursday night in both teams' regular season finale at the Talmadge Hill Field House.

NSU set a school record by percentage with a 24-of-25 effort from the free throw line (96.0 percent), only missing on its last free throw attempt of the night. The Spartans had a season-high nine blocks and got 21 points from senior Jermaine Bishop in the victory.

They finished the regular season at 12-4 in the MEAC, tied with North Carolina A&T for second place in the league. NSU moved to 16-15 overall. Bishop shot 6-of-12 overall and hit three of the team's four 3-pointers on the night. He was one of just three players for NSU in double figures along with sophomore Joe Bryant Jr. (12 points) and freshman Yoro Sidibe (10 points). Bishop is now tied for the school record for 3-pointers in a season with 98.
 
Morgan State ended the regular season at 9-7 in the MEAC, 15-16 overall. Four players scored in double figures for the Bears, who got all but two points from their starting five but shot just 35 percent for the game. MSU led just one time in the second half, although the Spartans could never pull ahead by more than 10 in the game.

They led by seven at the break, but the Spartans called a timeout after back-to-back layups by the Bears made it a three-point game, 36-33, in favor of NSU early in the second period. MSU eventually tied it up at 40-40 after a free throw from David Syfax Jr. with 12:50 to go.

Malik Miller's layup off a free throw miss after that put the Bears ahead, but the Spartans scored the next eight points and 12 of the next 14 for a 58-50 lead with 6:44 to go. Bishop hit NSU's first and only 3-pointer of the second half with five minutes left for a nine-point advantage, and two free throws from Sidibe made it a 10-point game with four minutes on the clock. The Bears got as close as five before some late turnovers did them in.

At the start of the game, the Spartans scored eight points in a row with scores by four different players for a 16-10 lead early on. Junior Efstratios Kalogerias had a 3-point play as the lead eventually went to nine, and Bishop's 3-pointer in transition made it 24-14 with a little more than six minutes remaining in the half.

The Bears got as close as five twice late in the half, but two free throws from junior Kashaun Hicks gave NSU a 32-25 lead going into the break. The Spartans shot 11-of-11 from the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes of play. The Spartans topped their previous best of 94.7 percent (18-of-19) from the free throw line at Northern Kentucky on Dec. 13, 2015. The Spartans have now finished either 11-5 of 12-4 in the MEAC in six of the last seven years.
 
For the Bears, Isaiah Burke shot 5-of-12 for deep and led the team with 15 points. Stanley Davis added 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting with seven boards, and Miller posted a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. They helped the Bears hold a 40-33 edge on the glass, including 18-8 in offensive rebounds.

NSU shot 41 percent for the night (20-of-49) but just 4-of-17 from deep. Junior Devante Carter led the Spartans with nine rebounds. NSU will play next Thursday at 8 p.m. against Coppin State as the No. 3 seed in the MEAC Tournament.