Courtesy of Alex Lehmbeck, Asst. SID
University Park, Pa. – Norfolk State women’s basketball came up just short of a road upset in Happy Valley on Wednesday evening, falling 67-61 to Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Deja Francis led the Spartans with 13 points, while Crystal White (11) and Camille Downs (10) also scored in double figures. Kierra Wheeler posted a team-high 10 rebounds, while Makoye Diawaratallied nine points and eight boards.
Penn State jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter off a trio of 3-pointers, but the Spartans didn’t back down. Crystal White knocked down a triple to get the Spartans on the board, before Skye Robinson drained a hook shot moments later.
After Penn State went up 13-5, Deja Francis scored on a fast break with a foul, sinking the free throw to pull NSU within five at the end of the first quarter.
The Nittany Lions scored seven of the next nine points, taking a ten-point lead into the second quarter media timeout. Wheeler and Niya Fields made consecutive shots in the paint to get the Spartans closer, while Deja Francis closed out the final thirty seconds with a floater and two free throws, cutting the halftime deficit to six.
Fields knocked one down from behind the arc to get the Spartans within one possession early in the third quarter, but the Nittany Lions went on an 9-1 run, expanding the gap to double-digits. Francis hit her first 3-pointer of the season to slow the momentum.
Penn State kept applying pressure on the visiting Spartans, eventually earning a 12-point cushion late in the third quarter, its biggest lead of the night, before Downs drilled a much-needed 3-pointer before the period ended. The graduate senior finished the game with ten points, six rebounds, and six steals.
An inside bucket from Wheeler and a pair of mid-range jumpers by Da’naijah Williams and Diawara kickstarted the Spartans’ comeback. Downs took advantage of an errant opposing pass, scoring on the other end to pull NSU within six.
Niya Fields made another layup with under three minutes remaining, before Diawara stepped up with a clutch three, cutting the Nittany Lions’ lead to just a single point.
The Spartans comeback would slow there, though. After Penn State knocked down a pair of free throws, Downs fouled out on a charge call, giving possession back to the home team.
After Norfolk State forced a missed jumper on the other end, Penn State’s Alexa Williamson came up with the offensive rebound and ensuing putback to deliver a crucial blow in the final minute. Francis got to the line on the other end, but it wasn’t enough as the Nittany Lions held on for the slim-margin victory.
Norfolk State’s bench provided a critical boost on Wednesday, outscoring the Penn State reserves 24-7. The Spartan’s tenacious defense forced 23 Penn State turnovers as well, a number the Nittany Lions only reached twice last season.
NSU heads to South Carolina this weekend for a Sunday meeting against College of Charleston at 5 p.m. The Spartans will be seeking revenge, dropping a tight home matchup by four points to the Cougars last season.
Next Game: at College of Charleston 11/13/2022 | 5 p.m.