SAVANNAH, Ga. – With the way the last several minutes played out on Monday night at Tiger Arena, you knew it would take more than 40 minutes to complete. But unfortunately for the Norfolk State men's basketball team, the extra five minutes were kind to Savannah State. The Tigers scored the first eight points of overtime, and the Spartans were never able to recover in a 104-99 loss in a MEAC matchup.
A wildly entertaining game saw 10 lead changes late in the second half, nine of those coming in the last 5:10 of the contest. Savannah State nearly won without the extra five minutes, but poor free throw shooting did them in before overtime. NSU, meanwhile, fell despite shooting 58 percent from the floor.
The Tigers, however, made 17-of-46 from the 3-point line and were led by Dexter McClanahan. He tallied 37 points on 12-of-19 shooting, 7-of-13 from beyond the arc, with eight rebounds. The Spartans got a career-high 22 points from sophomore Nic Thomas on 7-of-14 shooting with six rebounds and three assists. Junior Alex Long also reached the 20-point plateau, going for 20 exactly on 9-of-12 shooting with eight boards.
Savannah State (8-13, 5-1 MEAC) broke a 10-game losing streak to NSU, all coming in the teams' Division I eras. The Spartans fell to 4-16, 2-3 in the league. The Tigers led a good portion of the first half, but the Spartans got it back early in the second half. They were ahead for more than 10 minutes before the craziness ensued.
Down by six, McClanahan's 3-point play and 3-pointer allowed the Tigers to eventually take the lead back at 76-74. The Spartans had an answer each time, including a couple of layups by Long and a 3-pointer from senior Kyle Williams with just 2:42 left. Thomas eventually tied it up after a layup and then two free throws at the 1:26 mark.
Down by two with less than 30 seconds left, the Spartans missed a 3-point shot but got the ball back after SSU missed both free throws on the other end. Long's layup with 8.4 seconds on the clock tied it at 89-89. The Tigers were called for a charge, but NSU could not get a decent look after going up the court with 3.9 to go.
The Tigers, however, ran off eight straight in overtime to put Norfolk State in a hole. Senior Stavian Allen banked in a 3-pointer, while Thomas hit another one and made a layup with 13.0 left to get the Spartans to within three on three separate occasions. But after hitting just 15-of-28 from the foul line in regulation, Savanah State made 6-of-8 in the extra session. The Spartans missed a pair of shots from beyond the arc with time ticking down to close it out.
Like Thomas, Allen also posted a career high, tallying 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting with five rebounds. Williams ended the night with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. NSU, however, finished with 23 turnovers to negate a 39-of-67 night from the floor. It included a 9-of-22 effort from the 3-point line. The Spartans also outscored the Tigers 46-24 in points in the paint.
The Tigers began the game by hitting three 3-pointers for an early 13-6 lead. Treys from junior Derrik Jamerson Jr. and Thomas kept the Spartans close, but McClanahan had the hot hand for the Tigers. He scored 12 straight points for them at one point, all on 3-pointers, part of a 24-point first-half effort. His last one put SSU up by double digits, 29-19, with more than eight minutes left in the half.
Zach Sellers drained a trey and made two free throws to make it an 11-point game, but the Spartans countered with a 9-2 run. Thomas connected on a pair of free throws with 3:03 left to slice the Tiger lead to just four, 36-32. Three straight buckets by the Spartans were instrumental in getting the halftime deficit to just three, 41-38.
Williams capped a 9-0 run early in the second half with a trey from the left wing to put the Spartans ahead, 47-43, for the first time since the first couple minutes of the game. Jamerson later connected on a 3-pointer and a floater, and Thomas followed with a bucket at the rim to give the Spartans a 58-50 lead a little more than six minutes into the half.
It marked the largest lead of the game for NSU. But the Tigers responded. They sank three more 3-pointers during an 11-4 run that cut NSU's lead to just one. Allen, however, completed a 3-point play to make it a 70-64 ballgame with 8:42 to go before the late flurry in regulation. Sellers and teammates Austin Dasent, Alante Fenner and Javaris Jenkins each totaled 14 points. Savannah State made 33-of-76 (43.4 percent) for the game. It also held a 25-11 advantage in points off turnovers and a 15-7 edge in second-chance points.