DURHAM, N.C. – The North Carolina Central University men’s basketball program led Norfolk State for just 97 seconds, but it was the moments that counted after Kris Monroe (Raleigh, N.C.) hit a critical three to help the Eagles to a 70-67 triumph over the Spartans on Monday, Jan. 31 inside McDougald-McLendon Arena.
NSU (15-5, 6-1 MEAC) took an early command of the game by scoring first, and tried to take the crowd out of it with an early 10-point lead at 16-6 in the first 10 minutes. NCCU (9-10, 3-1 MEAC) didn’t let the quick start unsettle them, and stayed steady to draw the lead down to four at the end of the first half, and 34-30.
The Eagles kept chipping away at the deficit, and drew within four multiple times through the first and second half; but, the Spartans seemed to have an answer each time. However, with each three made by Monroe and Alex Caldwell (Columbia, S.C.) elicited a roar from the Eagle faithful, and that energy charged the motor for the maroon and gray down the stretch.
NCCU forced Norfolk State into 12 turnovers in the second half; including four in a two-minute stretch where the Eagles worked their magic into an 11-0 run to take a 68-62 lead with 28 seconds left. The biggest moment of that flurry was Monroe’s trey from the right wing with 1:37 remaining to give the Eagles their first lead of the game at 64-62. Joe Bryant Jr. (Norfolk, Va.) hit a highly contested three with eight seconds remaining to pull the Spartans within three at 67-64, but a last-second desperation heave from NSU bounced off the iron to give NCCU an emotional victory.
Monroe and Caldwell combined to hit nine of the Eagles’ 10 triples in the contest, and both registered 17 points, while Monroe tacked on seven rebounds. Justin Wright (Greenville, N.C.) once again led the Eagles in scoring, and registered his fourth 20-point game of the season, and pulled down six caroms. Defensively, both Wright and Dontavius King (Greenville, S.C.) secured six rebounds, and Eric Boone (Lexington, Ky.) swiped four steals.
Bryant led the Spartans with 18 points and six rebounds, and Dana Tate Jr. (Boston, Mass.) collected 17 points with a game-best eight boards. Jalen Hawkins (Bronx, N.Y.) was the third player for NSU in double-digits with 12 points, five rebounds, and five steals.
The Eagles will finish this three-game home stand with a rescheduled matchup with Coppin State on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 4:00 p.m. inside McDougald-McLendon Arena.
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