Eleventh-ranked Norfolk State used a strong inside game to open up a three-point lead midway through the second half in defeating District of Columbia, 69-59, last night in a Division II basketball game before 300 at UDC Physical Education Activities Center.
Just 10 days ago, UDC upset the Spartans, then ranked seventh, by 15 points. But last night, turnovers and missed shots kept the Firebirds from any comeback. Also, the Spartans outrebounded the Firebirds, 22-7, on the offensive boards and 42-22 for the game.
It was the first loss in three games at home for UDC (7-7) this season. Norfolk State improved to 12-1.
Ralph Tally led the Spartans with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Barry Mitchell had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Lyndon DeBellotte had 18 points and Johnny Gantt 13 for the Firebirds, who shot 50 percent from the field.
"The turning point was when the game started," said Firebirds Coach Wil Jones. "We were totally flat. I can't explain it."
Said Norfolk State Coach Charles Christian: "Our guys just played a great game."
Despite 35 percent shooting in the first half, Norfolk State held a 33-27 lead because of a 12-rebound advantage and UDC's 13 turnovers.
The Firebirds then looked as if they were going to be routed, as the Spartans led by 41-31, and UDC called a timeout with 16:49 remaining.
After the teams exchanged baskets, Gantt put in a layup, Richard McLean an offensive rebound, Bryan Tucker a free throw and Greg McCain an inside shot and suddenly UDC trailed by only 43-40.
But the Firebirds missed five shots and turned the ball over twice as Norfolk scored eight straight points, four by Tally. Norfolk State built a lead as large as 13 points, 63-50, with under three minutes to play.
"Playing zone" was the difference, said Spartans center Darnell Brown (13 points), comparing the game with the first meeting. "The last time we played man-to-man. This time we made them take the perimeter shots.
"Inside was open all the time. We just needed to work for the shot inside."
Said Christian: "They had a lot of stuff in the paint last time and we were a little concerned about that. But we were loose coming in. We did a little better job defensively."
UDC never led in this game, and after Jimmie Dixon made two free throws, the Spartans led, 19-10. It was 33-27 at intermission.