Daily Press (Sunday)

Defense keeps Spartans in first place

- By Michael Sauls Michael Sauls, michael.sauls@ virginiame­dia.com, 757-803-5774

NORFOLK — Norfolk State breezed to an easy 79-52 victory over Delaware State in a MEAC women’s basketball game Saturday at Echols Hall.

The Spartans (16-5) improved to 5-1 in the conference to strengthen their hold on first place. It was their third-largest margin against a Division I opponent this season.

“I thought we did a good job obviously early, holding them to single-digit points in the first period,” Norfolk State head coach Larry Vickers said. “Just giving ourselves a lead to play with, playing with some comfortabi­lity there.”

Vickers’ squad got to work early, and a strong defense helped the Spartans outscore the Hornets 20-8 in the first quarter.

Norfolk State forced Delaware State into seven turnovers in the opening period alone. Five of those turnovers were via steals, three of which junior guard Niya Fields was responsibl­e for.

The Spartans outshot the Hornets 47.1% to 16.7% in the first quarter.

Delaware State found some momentum in the second quarter behind the play of Ja’Naiah Perkins-Jackson and Circe Rubio Remolar, who were two of the only four Hornets to score in the game. A 9-0 run helped the Hornets cut Norfolk State’s lead to six with just under three minutes to go in the first half, but that was the closest Delaware State would get the rest of the game.

Norfolk State found its stride in the second half and the Spartans outscored Delaware State 20-9 in the third quarter.

Three Spartans finished with double-digit points, led by Kierra Wheeler with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Diamond Johnson finished with 14 points and Paris Mullins tallied a season-high 12.

“It felt good just to go out there and rebound and do whatever I can to help my team win and blow them out,” Mullins said.

NSU finished with 46 points in the paint and shot 45.7%.

“I thought we did a good job of dominating inside,” Vickers said. “We knew that they were going to extend their zone, and I thought we did a good job making passes in the zone … and getting some easy ones.”

Norfolk State’s defense kept the pressure on Delaware State the entire game. The Spartans forced 21 turnovers, 14 of which were steals.

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