Saturday, November 26, 2011

Norfolk State rolls over Virginia Union

Ebony Brown
Got to see this one in person, and we came away impressed by a Spartans team that displayed improved ability and maturity from the group we witnessed last season. Whitney Long led the way with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting, Marion Brooks added 13 and made all five of her field-goal attempts and freshman Ebony Brown was a revelation. The 5-foot-9 rookie from Atlanta chipped in 10 points and 4 rebounds in an action-packed 15 minutes.

"Ebony just gave us a wonderful spark," Spartans coach Debra Clark said.

Clark wasn't as excited about the way the Spartans opened both halves. NSU was sluggish at the outset and actually trailed 18-14 at the 10-minute mark of the first half before Brooks and Batavia Owens sparked a 10-0 run to restore order. The Spartans would outscored Union 27-3 over those final 10 minutes.

The Spartans promptly opened the second half in the same haphazard fashion they began the first and watched the Panthers cut the 20-point deficit to 7 at the 15:30 mark. A jumper by Tyisha Bridges, a 3-ball by Long and a layup from Rachel Gordon gave NSU separation again, and the Spartans were never seriously threatened again.

"We made it harder than it should have been," Clark said.

No, it wasn't a masterpiece. And yes, comfortable scheduling helps explain NSU's 4-1 record. Still, we came away with the sense that this is definitely a better team than it was a year ago. And they'll need to be on Monday when they host William and Mary, a matchup nightmare for the Spartans.

But that's a story for another day, On Saturday night, the Spartans gave their fans reason to celebrate. Based on what happened Saturday afternoon, the NSU faithful were no doubt appreciated the pick-me-up.

Valentina Wheeler scored 18 points and Ashle Freeman added 17 to lead Virginia Union. The Panthers also got 8 points and 14 rebounds from Vicki Collier, the former Old Dominion performer who is resuming her college career after an injury-plagued stint with the Lady Monarchs. Look for much more on Collier's return to action - playing for her own mother, no less - in an upcoming post.

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