NORFOLK, VA- UMES was primed to pull off the upset on Monday night in the first round of the MEAC tournament at Scope Arena thanks to a big second half rally. Fortunately for the Norfolk State men’s basketball team, history did not repeat itself. Facing a tied ballgame late in the game after they had been up by as much as 23 just 10 minutes earlier, the Spartans did just enough at the end to survive UMES’ comeback in a 78-74 victory.
NSU (18-13) advanced to the quarterfinal round to face the winner of Savannah State-South Carolina State. That game will be held on Thursday at 8 p.m. Norfolk State was primed for an easy win, going up by double digits midway through the first half and turning it into a lead of 20-plus five minutes into the second stanza. UMES (6-24), though, had other ideas.
The Spartans had extended their lead to 49-30 early in the second half on a putback layup by sophomore RaShid Gaston, and senior Malcolm Hawkins drove around his defender with 15:14 to go to get that lead to 20. Senior Pendarvis Williams scored five straight to give NSU a 60-37 edge at the 12:36 mark. Hakeem Baxter tallied 14 points for UMES during a 22-5, five-minute run to make it 65-59 with a little more than seven minutes to go.
Mark Blackmon, a freshman guard who scored just 31 points all year, then drained a pair of treys from the right wing to cut the NSU lead to two, 69-67, with 4:55 on the clock. Blackmon finished with 13 points on the night.
The Hawks tied it up twice after hitting a pair from the line both times, the first time from Baxter and the second thanks to the touch of Troy Snyder. The latter made it 74-74 with just 1:49 left, reminiscent of last year’s game against Bethune-Cookman in the quarterfinals when No. 1 seed NSU let a 13-point second-half lead slip away.
Gaston, though, gave NSU the lead back against the Hawks after going 1-of-2 from the line. Senior Marese Phelps got his hand on the ball for the steal on the next possession, and Williams sank a pair of free throws with 6.6 seconds left. The Hawks turned it again over trying to go up the court, and Phelps hit one more free throw for the final margin of victory...
On the women's side, No. 6 seed Norfolk State ended the season with a 70-66 loss to No. 11 seed Maryland Eastern Shore on Monday afternoon at Scope Arena in the opening round of the 2014 MEAC tournament. NSU ends the season at 12-16 overall, while UMES improves to 9-20. The Lady Hawks will face No. 3 seed Coppin State on Thursday at noon at Scope Arena in the quarterfinals of the 2014 MEAC tournament.
Junior guard Rae Corbo led all scorers with 24 points and six assists. Corbo needed only 16 points in the game to break 1,000 points for her career. She now has 1,008 points total.
Freshman Koryn Lawrence also scored in double figures for the Spartans. She finished the game with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Junior Quineshia Leonard and senior Rachel Gordon each posted seven points. Leonard also added 10 rebounds. Gordon, an All-MEAC first team selection, tallied eight boards to end her career at NSU with 977 points and 1,046 rebounds.
The Spartans led by as many as 13 points in the second half at the 15:28 mark after Corbo scored on a layup in the paint to make the score 45-32. Shawnee Sweeney drained a 3-pointer with 15:09 left to spark a 12-4 run for the Lady Hawks. TeAmber Burke closed out the run with a pair of free throws to keep UMES within three, 49-46, with 10:50 left to play.
NSU extended its lead to seven with 8:31 on the clock after a 3-pointer from Corbo, a pair of free throws from Lawrence and a layup in the paint from Gordon to make the score 56-49. For the game, the Spartans outscored the Lady Hawks, 36-24, in the paint. UMES came within two, 58-56, with 5:23 left as Burke knocked down a jumper to cap a 7-2 run. The Spartans answered outscoring UMES over the next three minutes, 6-5, as Corbo scored on a jumper to make the score 64-61 at the 2:03 mark.
The Lady Hawks took the lead with 54 seconds left to play after Alexis Udoji drove in the lane and scored on a layup to give UMES a 65-64 advantage. Gordon scored NSU’s last points of the game as she made a layup on the other end with 38 seconds to go in the game. UMES shot free throws the rest of the way to get their final score of 70. For the game, NSU shot 38.4 percent (28-of-73) from the field, which included a 30.8 percent (4-of-13) mark from 3-point range. The Spartans also shot 66.7 percent (6-of-9) from the free throw line.