MEAC / Spartan Men / Sports

SEASON PREVIEW: NSU Women Host USC Upstate Friday to Tip Off 2015-16

rp_primary_Hampton-NSU-WBBalll-MDP%2031Jan15%20%20001263NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk State women’s basketball team opens the 2015-16 regular season Friday when it hosts another set of Spartans – from the University of South Carolina Upstate. Game time is 6 p.m. at Echols Hall.

Media Coverage
The contest will be broadcast live on WNSB 91.1 FM with Ross Gordon calling the action and Aaron Clark providing color analysis. Links to live stats and a live video stream are at the top of the page.

Series History
NSU leads the all-time series with USC Upstate, 4-2. But the Spartans from South Carolina won the teams’ last meeting, a 70-58 decision in Spartanburg, S.C., on Jan. 3, 2015. Brittany Starling had 12 points and 19 rebounds, Sharmayne Edwards also scored 12 points and Upstate forced 24 NSU turnovers. Rae Corbo led NSU with 22 points, Koryn Lawrence had 14 and Kayla Roberts added nine points and 11 rebounds.

Upstate has now beaten NSU twice in a row, including a 71-64 overtime win in Norfolk on Nov. 15, 2012. NSU won the first four meetings between the teams.

Scouting USC Upstate
USC Upstate compiled a 14-16 overall record and 6-8 mark in the Atlantic Sun last season, tying for fourth place in the league standings. The Spartans lost to Northern Kentucky in the first round of the A-Sun tournament. USC was picked to finish fifth in the eight-team A-Sun in preseason voting earlier this fall.

The Spartans are paced by unanimous preseason all-conference selection Brittany Starling. The senior center averaged 12.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season. She led the league in field goal percentage (52.3) and was third in rebounding. Upstate also brings back guards Brittany Clency (9.5 ppg) and Travonda Haddock (4.0 ppg) but must replace leading scorer Sharmayne Edwards (13.0 ppg).

NSU Season Preview
Coming off its most successful season since 2001-02, the Norfolk State women’s basketball team is aiming to continue its ascent toward the top of the conference standings in 2015-16. The Spartans will have to do it without the top scorer in the program’s Division I era, but do return star forward Kayla Roberts and depth at the guard positions while welcoming in a talented class of recruits.

NSU won 14 games last year, including 11 in a MEAC season that ranks as the Spartans’ best since the program’s MEAC championship year of 2001-02. A big reason for that was a memorable year for All-MEAC guard Rae Corbo, who finished her stellar career in 2014-15. She graduated as the school’s No. 6 all-time scorer and scored more points than any Spartan in the Division I era. Corbo averaged 20.8 points per game last season, second in the MEAC, and is the school’s all-time leader in career free-throw percentage (82.6 percent).

While NSU won’t necessarily count on one player to replace Corbo’s production this season, the Spartans have a number of players in their frontcourt and backcourt capable of assuming larger roles. Sophomore forward Kayla Roberts became NSU’s first-ever MEAC Rookie of the Year last season, complementing Corbo’s scoring from the outside by averaging 12.2 points and a MEAC-leading 9.6 rebounds per game. Like Corbo, Roberts was a second-team All-MEAC selection. She was also a seven-time MEAC Rookie of the Week award-winner last year.

Along with Roberts, NSU also welcomes back some depth up front in the form of junior forwards Amber Brown (3.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Ronesia Spicer (1.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and sophomore center Shayla Tanner (1.0 ppg, 1.1 rpg). La Salle University graduate transfer Siobhan Beslow, who averaged 8.1 points and 5.7 rebounds for the Explorers of the Atlantic 10 last year, adds a talented, veteran presence to the NSU frontcourt.

Despite Corbo’s loss, the NSU backcourt returns firepower and experience. Junior shooting guard Koryn Lawrence had a breakout year in 2014-15, averaging 9.9 points per game. That figure rose to 11.1 in conference play, as Lawrence proved to be one of the team’s most efficient shooters (43.9 percent from the floor, 90.2 from the free-throw line).

Senior Brehanna Daniels (2.3 ppg) and juniors Dominique Harper (1.8 ppg) and Kieera Basey (0.9 ppg) add depth to the NSU backcourt. All proved capable of giving the Spartans key minutes off the bench last season, and will compete for expanded roles this year.

NSU’s six-play recruiting class is heavy on guards who are capable of contributing immediately. High school signees Quiera Gilmore, Yazmen Hannah and Alexys Long and junior college additions Kiara Phillips and Ashante Doby add depth in the backcourt. Doby will compete for time at the point guard position, while Hannah, Long and Phillips can provide scoring from the wing. Gilmore is slated to redshirt.

After this week’s game with USC Upstate, the Spartans’ 26-game regular-season schedule also includes dates with Mississippi State of the SEC, the University of Virginia of the ACC and both William & Mary and UNC Wilmington of the CAA. UNCW and Oakland also visit Echols Hall this season as part of the Spartans’ 11-game home slate.

The MEAC tournament returns to the Scope Arena in downtown Norfolk for the fourth consecutive year this season. The 2016 tournament runs from March 7-12.