2021 NCAA Tournament First Four Recap: Norfolk State moves on, will face #1 Gonzaga (3-18-21)



By: Joe Dillard Jr.

Headline Photo Courtesy: NCAA/Getty Images

Joe Dillard Jr.-LMS Network Columnist and Host of “Commonwealth Sports Talk”

On the first night of the NCAA 2021 tournament, many dreams continued and those that just came up short still must take the best out of the situation. For Norfolk State, this was an opportunity that seemed to be the right place at the right time for the right play. We had the pleasure of speaking with Norfolk State head coach Robert Jones on Commonwealth Sports Talk before the season began and he would be the first to say that regardless of the situation we must be ready no matter what the future presents. Well, after an emotional victory last night against a tough and well-coached and prepared Appalachian State team Norfolk State finds itself preparing immediately for Gonzaga in the field of 64. But as far as the first in-game, Norfolk State was led by Jalen Hawkins with 24 points on 8 of 13 shooting and 80 percent from the foul line and 3-point line to go with 5 rebounds and 2 steals. That stat line pretty much described the whole team as their defensive effort was beyond amazing holding App. State to 25.8 percent shooting for the game. Not to mention the 0-for-18 slump from the 3-point line, which is a strength of App State, but the defense of Norfolk State was everywhere getting 10 steals as a team. Joe Bryant Jr. struggled from the field shooting but, the Lake Taylor champion played championship basketball filling the stat line while his shot was not there. The 6’1 guard had 4 rebounds and 4 steals and still managed to be the second-leading scorer for the Spartans with 10 points.

BLOOMINGTON, IN – MARCH 18: Justin Forrest #1 of the Appalachian State Mountaineers drives to the basket against Devante Carter #14 of the Norfolk State Spartans in the First Four round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on March 18, 2021 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images )

The last 3 came on a great play made by Devante Carter penetrating in the lane to kick it out for Joe to sink the 3-ball cutting Norfolk State’s biggest deficit of 4 points to 1. After exchanging baskets Devante Carter who struggled all game shooting 1 for 10 stepped up to the line and hit the 2-game winning free throws. With a horrible game I am sure he felt, Carter a native of Newport News did what he could do best and move on to the next opportunity.

BLOOMINGTON, IN – MARCH 18: Devante Carter #14 of the Norfolk State Spartans drives to the basket against the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the First Four round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on March 18, 2021 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images )

Getting subbed back in around the 5-minute mark he came in and created the assist to Joe and that one play stopped the momentum that App state had gained. So, with the game on the line, Carter made both free throws and lived to say the phrase SURVIVE AND ADVANCE! Even in the post-game conference, you could notice coach Jones turned the switch immediately to focus on Gonzaga understanding the opportunity in front of the Spartans. With 9 players on the roster from the state of Virginia, Jones looks poised to building a program that can earn mid-major credit when it comes to March and all the Madness that comes with it. So, I say why not get behind this group in support of representing the state of Virginia. They will face Gonzaga Saturday (Mar 20) at 9:20 pm and looking to shock the world!

BLOOMINGTON, IN – MARCH 18: Head coach Robert Jones of the Norfolk State Spartans coaches during the game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the First Four round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on March 18, 2021 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images )