NORFOLK, Va. (NSU Athletics) – For the first time in the program’s history, the Norfolk State women’s basketball team will be named conference regular-season co-champs. The Spartans (15-10, 11-3 MEAC) came back from a 12-point deficit in the second half against first-seeker Howard (17-9, 11-3) at Echols Hall on Thursday to win 62-58 to take a share of the title while snapping up the Bisons’ six-game winning streak in the process.
Camille Downs led the Spartans on their senior night with 19 points and five steals, while fellow senior Deja Francis added 16 points and four assists.
Howard took an early 5-0 lead before NSU made themselves comfortable. Mahogany Williams tripped two layups, and Downs hit a one-foul bucket to cap a 9-0 run by Spartan. However, the Bison took back the lead before the end of the first quarter and would hold it until the final third.
Destiny Howell, Howard’s top scorer this season, showed her shooting prowess in Thursday’s first half, hitting four three-pointers for 15 points. Her third deep ball gave the Bison an 8-point lead late in the second quarter before Francis responded with back-to-back driving scores.
Downs eventually made the Spartan’s first 3-pointer with less than a minute left in the first half, but Howell hit another at the other end to put Howard 33-28 at halftime. Howell ended with a game-high 23 points.
Downs scored the opening points of the second half, but Howard quickly put on a 9-0 run from there to extend the lead to 12. Makoye Diawara momentarily stopped the momentum with a drop step layup, but Howard’s Venessa Udoji responded with a mid-range jumper at the other end.
But Diawara wasn’t finished yet. She hit a midrange jumper herself, sparking a 9-0 NSU run to put the Spartans back within striking distance. Downs knocked down another 3-pointer during the run and Francis hit four free throws. The Spartans were four players behind in the fourth quarter.
And the team came to play for the most important quarter of its season so far. Downs got things going with a 3-pointer on NSU’s first possession, and Niya Fields knocked down her first 3-pointer of the night moments later to give the Spartans their first lead since the opening period. It seemed monumental at the time, but it would turn out to be the second greatest shot of Fields’ night.
Howard regained control for a four-point lead, but Diawara again stole the momentum with a timely basket. After Howard regained the lead to four, Downs drilled her fourth 3-pointer of the night to put the Spartans on one. Diawara, who cemented a career-high 10 points Thursday while shooting 62.5 percent from the field, made another basket in the paint to regain the lead.
Howard hit a pair of three shots to play a 58-57 lead by just over two minutes, but it would be the last points of the night for the Bison. Fields knocked down a 3-pointer in the corner eight seconds later to give the Spartans a lead they wouldn’t give up.
The Bison were in dire need of a goal but Diawara soon made the defensive play of the night by repelling Howard’s Iyanna Warren with the shot clock running out. The Bison had another chance in the final 30 seconds to level things three down, but Fields invented the strip steal to thwart the win.
The Spartans now enter the MEAC tournament as No. 2 overall and on a three-game winning streak. NSU meets North Carolina Central in the first round on Wednesday, March 9 at 2 p.m. at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
https://www.wavy.com/video/norfolk-state-women-rally-past-howard-to-claim-share-of-meac-regular-season-crown/ Norfolk State women rally past Howard for a share of the MEAC regular-season crown