Guard Malcolm Hawkins hit seven of eight free throws in the final minute and led a balanced attack with 20 points as Norfolk State opened the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season with a 91-87 win over Florida A&M on Thursday night in Norfolk, Va.
It was the 20th consecutive MEAC regular-season victory for Norfolk State, one of three Division I teams that went undefeated in its conference last season. The Spartans also earned their 15th consecutive win at Echols Hall and 10th straight victory over the Rattlers, a streak which dates to January 2007.
Norfolk State (6-3, 1-0) never trailed after the opening minutes, but it wasn't easy. Seven-foot center Brandon Goode (10 points, eight rebounds) was plagued by foul trouble, compounding the problems inside for the Spartans, who are already without forward Rashid Gaston. A 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore, Gaston was averaging 15 points and nine rebounds when he underwent knee surgery last month.
Norfolk State compensated by placing all five starters in double figures. Senior guards Pendarvis Williams and Anell Alexis scored 16 and 13 points, respectively. Junior point guard Jamel Fuentes, who directed the Spartans' offense, finished with 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Florida A&M (2-6, 0-1) got 24 points from top scorer Jamie Adams, but the 5-foot-10 senior made only five of 17 shots. The Rattlers finished with 37.5 percent marksmanship from the floor compared to 47.8 percent for the Spartans. Forward Jamari Bradshaw scored 13 points in 13 minutes off the FAMU bench before fouling out.
In a tedious affair in which 100 free throws were shot and six players fouled out, Norfolk State's lead fluctuated between one and nine points in a lengthy second half full of stoppages. After Hawkins hit one of two free throws to put Norfolk State up 87-84 with 24 seconds left, FAMU had a chance to tie, but Adams was called for an offensive foul. Hawkins then drilled two free throws to wrap up the Spartans' win.