Courtesy of Brian Howard, Asst. AD/Communications, Norfolk State Athletics
Norfolk St. 23-5,11-2 MEAC
N.C. Central 13-15,7-6 MEAC
DURHAM, N.C. | For the second consecutive season, the Norfolk State University women’s basketball team will finish the regular season atop the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) standings. This time, they did it as outright champions.
The Spartans dominated from start to finish on Monday night in avenging their last loss with a 79-67 victory over North Carolina Central at McDougald-McLendon Arena. Just a mere five minutes after the conclusion of NSU’s win in Durham, Morgan State saw its chances of potentially sharing the top spot vanish in a 73-70 loss to Maryland Eastern Shore.
With the victory, Norfolk State has earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s MEAC Women’s Basketball tournament.
Camille Downs scored 14 of her game high and season high 25 points in the first half, including nine in the first period, to pace Norfolk State. She went 9-for-11 from the floor, to go along with five assists, four rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. Kierra Wheeler posted a double-double with 19 points and 14 boards, with three steals and one blocked shot, while Deja Francis recorded 10 points, a team-high seven assists, two steals and two rebounds.
Kira Lowery recorded 12 of her team-high 18 points in the first quarter and added three rebounds and three assists. Aniya Finger registered a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, with one steal.
Much like Saturday against South Carolina State, the Spartans (23-5 overall, 11-2 MEAC) quickly raced out to a big lead, opening the game on a 7-2 run, capped by a Downs 3-pointer with 7:36 remaining.
Back came North Carolina Central, closing the gap to 9-8 after free throws by Kira Lowery and Morgan Callahan and the Eagles tied the game at 11 on a triple by Lowery with 4:44 left in the period.
Lowery, who scored 12 first-quarter points, ended the period on a three-point play as North Carolina Central took a 16-15 advantage into the second quarter.
Norfolk State began the second on an 8-0 run, capped by back-to-back layups by Wheeler as the Spartans grabbed a 23-16 lead with 7:37 left.
Buckets by Nia Ford and Kimia Carter cut the deficit to 23-21, but Norfolk State used a 14-3 run over the next four minutes to push the advantage to 37-24 with 1:33 remaining.
The two teams traded buckets down the stretch as the Spartans took a 39-28 lead into the break.
The Spartans held the Eagles scoreless for the first 3:27 of the third quarter in building a 49-28 advantage.
Norfolk State went cold from the floor shooting, going more than four minutes without a bucket as NCCU closed the gap to 56-40 with 1:22 remaining.
The Spartans got baskets by Mahoganie Williams and Downs as Norfolk State took a commanding 61-42 lead into the final period.
North Carolina Central (13-15, 7-6) refused to go away quietly as the Eagles used a 10-2 run, capped by an Aniya Finger layup, to close the deficit to 68-56 with 5:48 remaining.
However, the Spartans closed the door on any comeback attempt as Wheeler scored six of the next eight NSU points in extending the advantage to 78-59 with 2:42 left.
The Eagles could not rally down the stretch as Norfolk State avenged its last loss with the road victory.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Norfolk State shot 49.2 percent (31-of-63) from the floor and 81.3 percent (13-of-16) from the free-throw line
- Camille Downs went 9-for-11 from the floor to register a season-high 25 points, along with five assists, four rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot
- Kierra Wheeler posted a double-double with 19 points and 14 boards, with three steals and one blocked shot
- Deja Francis recorded 10 points, a team-high seven assists, two steals and two rebounds.
- The Spartans finished with 46 points in the paint, 37 points off 28 NCCU turnovers, 19 fast break points, 13 second-chance points and 10 bench points
- North Carolina Central went 20-of-56 shooting (34.5 percent) and 21-of-28 (75.0 percent) from the charity stripe
- Kira Lowery recorded 12 of her team-high 18 points in the first quarter and added three rebounds and three assists
- Aniya Finger registered a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, with one steal.
- The Eagles finished with 12 bench points, 12 points in the paint, 11 second-chance points and two points off 10 Norfolk State turnovers
NEWS & NOTES
- Norfolk State earns the outright MEAC Women’s Basketball regular season championship
- This is the program’s first outright MEAC regular season title and second overall
- The Spartans shared the regular season title last season with Howard and Morgan State
- The 23 victories are the most during the Division I era for Norfolk State
- Monday’s win marked the 23rd win, surpassing the previous victory total of 22 set during the 2001-2002 season
- The Spartans also notched the highest winning percentage during the Division I era, surpassing the 2001-2002 season (.710)
- NSU head coach Larry Vickers became the first Spartan coach to win 20-plus games since James Sweat achieved the feat in 2001-2002
Norfolk State concludes the regular season on Thursday with a trip to Howard. Tip-off against the Bison is set for 6 p.m. from Burr Gymnasium. Howard (13-13, 9-4) got back into the win column with a 60-55 victory over South Carolina State on Monday.
Next Game: at Howard 3/2/2023 | 6 p.m. WNSB 91.1 FM