Jalen Hawkins reminded fans why they love March Madness on Thursday night in Norfolk State’s First Four win over Appalachian State.
Hawkins, from the Bronx, went off for 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting (4-for-5 from 3) and lit up the internet as Norfolk State pulled away by 16 early in the game, only to see their lead diminish late before pulling out the 54-53 win to advance.
“I feel amazing right now,” Hawkins exclaimed. “I’m kinda excited. I stayed positive all year. I’ve been in the gym all year — night in, night out, early morning. I knew it was bound to happen. God was with me tonight, I’m thankful for him.”
Devante Carter sank two free throws to pull the Spartans ahead for good late in the game after going 1-for-10 shooting.
“I knew they were good,” Hawkins remarked. “He struggled earlier in the season, but like I said, we were in the gym night in, night out. I knew they were good. I didn’t even have to look at them.”
This is Norfolk State’s second tournament appearance, having not been to the tournament since 2012. That year, the 15-seed Spartans upset Missouri. “I’m happy to be here, happy me and my team made it here,” Hawkins said. “It was a tough year, a long year, we stayed together and we are here, we are dancing.”
Up Next, Gonzaga
Next up for the Spartans is a date with the 26-0, No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga. Prep for that game started immediately after the win, according to Hawkins and head coach Robert Jones.
“We start our scout tonight,” Hawkins commented. “Everything, we locked in Friday night and Saturday night, we are locked in.”
In his TV interview, Jones said they had a scout already on Gonzaga prior to winning their First Four game.
“We usually do scout two days in advance for our players to start getting familiar with the next opponent,” Jones commented. “Obviously, tomorrow will only be a 24-hour in advance scouting and shoot around the day of but as far as preparing and giving it to the guys we (coaches) are going to stay up all night to finish it. We’ve already started it as coaches because we believed in this team.
“We believed in this team and we believed we were going to play them so we already started and be ready to present to the team tomorrow.
“What a game; March Madness is back,” Jones commented. “Survive and advance, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Survive and advance indeed, and yes, the madness is back.