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Tyrel Bladen’s career high leads Norfolk State past Morgan State

NORFOLK — After an “ugly” win Saturday night, Norfolk State locked in Monday night and beat Morgan State 83-73 in a physical matchup.

“Another tough game, just like any other conference game, I guess,” Norfolk State coach Robert Jones said. “Morgan (State), credit to them, came out with a physical game plan. They came out and were bothering us a little bit with their physicality and we were able to fight through it. We had a pretty good offensive game; defensively, we left some things to desire.”

The win was Norfolk State’s fourth in a row and helped the Spartans improve to 14-8 overall and 4-1 in MEAC play.

When graduate student Christian Ings crossed up a Morgan State defender for Norfolk State’s first points of the game, leaving the defender lying on the ground before nailing a jumper, it seemed the game would be going no way other than the Spartans’.

That moment was one of many early on that sent Echols Hall into a frenzy and helped Norfolk State build an early lead. The Spartans scored 40 points on 48.5% shooting in the first half and led by as many as 13.

“I definitely was digging the crowd tonight,” said forward Tyrel Bladen, who led Norfolk State with a career-high 17 points. “Every time they come out to the games, of course we appreciate their support, so we’re trying to give them something to come back for. It’s definitely nice to hear them a lot more lively during these games and really giving us that home-court advantage.”

The Spartans finished the first half on an 11-6 run and took a 40-28 lead into the break, but Morgan State didn’t have any plans on going quietly.

Coach Kevin Broadus’ squad opened the first five minutes of the second half on a 9-4 run and cut the Spartans’ lead to just two points with 10 minutes remaining.

Norfolk State typically limits its opponents’ shooting fairly well, but Morgan State shot at a 50% clip in the second half and 49% for the game. The Bears outscored the Spartans 45-43 in the second half.

“The thing that I didn’t like about the whole game really was that we allowed them to shoot 50% for the whole game,” Jones said. “… That’s not what we do. We were holding teams to 37.7% in conference and then they just came and shot 50.”

While Morgan State turned up the heat offensively in the second half, so did Norfolk State. The Spartans shot 51.9% in the second half and finished the game shooting 50%.

Bladen led the way offensively for the Spartans. Monday night marked just the third time this season that Bladen, who averages 5.6 points per game, has scored more than 10.

“Any performance I have that ends up in a win, I feel good about it,” Bladen said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of reps and my teammates are finding me, so I mean I’m just grateful that I can make things work out.”

There were times when Morgan State had no answer for the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Bladen in the paint. He finished 8 for 10 from the field and also brought in six rebounds.

“Tyrel is starting to come along,” Jones said. “Right now, he’s starting to be utilized way more than he’s ever been utilized in his whole career, and he’s stepping up to the challenge. … He showed his prowess down there.”

Norfolk State will next play at 4 p.m. Saturday at home against Delaware State.

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