Norfolk State blew a 17-point lead in the second half and fell 76-74 to East Carolina in the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Monday at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
The Spartans were up 67-52 with 6:46 to play, but an 18-1 run capped by a 3-pointer from guard Paris Roberts-Campbell put East Carolina back on top 70-68 with 2:38 left.
The Spartans trailed 75-74 and had the ball with the chance to take the last shot, but a turnover by guard Pendarvis Williams gave the ball back to the Pirates (4-0). Roberts-Campbell made one of two free throws with five seconds to play, and a Williams shot fell short as time expired.
Roberts-Campbell scored 22 points to lead the Pirates, who move on to face Duke on Tuesday. Guard Akeem Richmond added 17 points, and forward Michael Zangari had 16 for East Carolina.
Williams, the reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player of the week, led the Spartans (2-2) with 18 points. Guard Malcolm Hawkins scored 16 for Norfolk State, which meets UNC-Asheville on Tuesday. The Bulldogs fell to the host Blue Devils 91-55 in Monday's opener.
Norfolk State went on an impressive run to avoid being blown out early. The Spartans trailed 27-14 with less than nine minutes to play in the opening half, but a 12-2 surge got the Spartans back in the game, and they trailed 35-34 at halftime.