Spartans Erase 20-Point Deficit, Stun William & Mary in Season-Opener

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – It didn’t come easy, but the Norfolk State women’s basketball team gutted out a 66-64 come-from-behind victory at William & Mary on Monday evening to open the 2023-24 season.

The defending MEAC champs trailed by as much as 20 in the first half but used a strong third quarter to pull back in front. The Spartans scored 17 consecutive points to claw their way back into the game, eventually holding off a late Tribe push in the final minutes.

Kierra Wheeler led the Spartans with 17 points, adding seven rebounds as well. Freshman Da’Brya Clark shined in her collegiate debut, posting a statline of 11 points, seven assists, and six rebounds.

Norfolk State had four players score in double-figures on Monday. Niya Fields tallied 13 points and two assists, while Da’Naijah Williams recorded 10 points and five rebounds.

William & Mary scored the first six points of the night, jumping out to a 13-5 lead after a 3-pointer from Bella Nascimento. Wheeler hustled for a putback score near the end of the quarter, but the Tribe took a 15-7 lead into the second period, led by 10 early points from Nylah Young.

Young continued to give the Spartan defense trouble, getting to the lane for several inside baskets and earning multiple trips to the free throw line. The former Hampton Pirate finished the game with 29 points and nine rebounds, going a perfect 11-of-11 from the charity stripe.

Another Nascimento 3-pointer pushed the Tribe’s lead to 31-11 with just under four minutes remaining in the first half. Williams converted a Clark steal with a fast break layup to provide the first spark in NSU’s turnaround.

Clark scored an and-one layup off a W&M turnover moments later, before Williams got a layup on yet another steal-and-score. Three more free throws from Clark cut the deficit to nine, before Williams earned another trip to the line.

By converting both freebies, the tandem of Clark and Williams had now scored 13 unanswered points for the Spartans. Wheeler got another layup to fall, cutting William & Mary’s advantage to five at the half.

Wheeler, Clark, and Williams continued to carry the offensive load for the Spartans, scoring NSU’s first 13 points of the second half. Clark gave Norfolk State its first lead of the night with a pair of free throws, before Fields extended the gap with a crucial 3-pointer.

Norfolk State took a 44-40 lead into the fourth quarter, and kept the momentum going. Diawara grabbed an offensive board, one of her team-high eight rebounds on Monday, and put it back up for two points, before knocking down a pair of free throws on the Spartans’ next trip down the floor.

Freshman Anjanae Richardson got in on the action with a steal and score, pushing NSU’s lead to double-digits. Back-to-back scores from Nascimento and Young kept the Tribe in the mix, though, before Young took advantage of a Norfolk State turnover to make the score 59-55 with just over three minutes to play.

The late charge didn’t faze the Spartan veterans. Fields knocked down a clutch 3-pointer with two minutes remaining, pushing NSU ahead by six.

Multiple late scores from Young made it a one-possession game, but a Wheeler jumper gave the Spartans some breathing room. Kayla Rolph pulled the Tribe within one off an and-one bucket moments later, fouling out Wheeler in the process.

Fields went one-of-two from the line, allowing the Tribe one last chance to tie or take the lead. Nascimento went for the latter but missed the do-or-die 3-pointer as time expired, closing Norfolk State’s thrilling victory.

Checking The Box Score

  • Norfolk State had four players score in double figures on Monday
  • Kierra Wheeler led NSU with 17 points, adding seven rebounds as well.
  • Freshman Da’Brya Clark posted 11 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in her collegiate debut.
  • Clark drew eight fouls on Monday, shooting 7-of-9 from the free throw line
  • Niya Fields recorded 13 points and two assists, while Da’Naijah Williams tallied 10 points and five rebounds
  • Nylah Young led William & Mary with 29 points and nine rebounds, going 11-of-11 from the free throw line
  • Norfolk State trailed by 20 points with 3:59 remaining in the first half, before going on a 31-5 run during the second and third quarters.

News & Notes

  • Norfolk State improved to 1-0 with the win
  • The victory was NSU’s second consecutive against William & Mary, winning last year’s bout 70-52 at Echols Hall
  • NorfolK State remains on the road, heading to Philadelphia, Pa. to face Drexel on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Source: Norfolk State University Athletics