Aggies Halt Eagles Rally, Remain Unbeaten In MEAC Play

It dangerous to get lackadaisical during a rivalry game like North Carolina A&T versus North Carolina Central. The Aggies women’s basketball team fell into a lull for a moment Saturday afternoon but recovered quickly enough to come away with a 67-54 win over the Eagles.

It was the Aggies (11-7, 6-0 MEAC) 16th win over the Eagles in 17 tries. North Carolina A&T is tied for first place in the MEAC with Bethune-Cookman as they await a tough Norfolk State (11-6, 4-1 MEAC) team coming to Corbett Sports Center for a 5:30 p.m., Wednesday make-up game. 

“I don’t think we realize what’s going on right now,” said N.C. A&T coach Tarrell Robinson who saw his team win its seventh straight game. “They’re playing their hardest and trying to please me in terms of how they play defense. We’ve got to get better offensively. But we’re not looking up at anybody, we’re looking down on some teams, so we’ve got to make sure we continue to take care of our business.”

Sophomore Alexus Lessears led the first-place Aggies with 13 points and 15 rebounds for her sixth career double-double. Twenty-nine of the Aggies points came off the bench led by sophomore Cinia McCray who had 12 points. Sophomore C’Coriea Foy added 10.

N.C. A&T came out like a team with a capacity crowd behind it. The closed the first quarter on an 11-2 run capped off by a Foy layup. The Aggies pretty much maintained their advantage throughout the second quarter and led 34-23 at halftime.

ncat_bball_CCFoy_NCCU.jpgBut the Eagles, who snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Aggies last season by beating them in Corbett, started to erase the Aggies lead. A 3-pointer by Kieche White cut the Aggies lead to eight at 45-37 with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter. The lead was cut to five to open the third quarter as Jada Blow hit another three for NCCU.

The lead went to two, 47-45, on two Rodneysha Martin free throws with 7:44 to play in the game. The Aggies once double-digit lead was completely erased when Blow hit a three from the corner to give the Eagles a 48-47 lead with 6:36 remaining in the game.

“I felt like it was on us,” said Robinson about the Eagles comeback. “It was an exciting game. It was rivalry game to the fullest. One team is up and then another team makes a run, then the other team makes the run. We were just getting lax.

When we went up in the first quarter it was like we checked out. They outscored us in the second, I talked to them halftime and then we got a little more laxed. It took them going up for us to wake up and open the game up again.”

N.C. A&T got real series after the Eagles took the lead as they fed off the sellout crowd. Senior Kayla Green went baseline to score on a layup to help the Aggies reclaim the lead. McCray then got the crowd out of their seats again with a 3-pointer followed by back-to-back jump shots from an enthused Quenswayla Story as the Aggies took a 56-48 advantage with 4 ½ minutes to play.

After Dominique Adams scored to cut the lead to six, the Aggies, the conference leader in turnovers forced, started forcing NCCU turnovers. The Eagles turned the ball over four times in the final four minutes as the Aggies closed the game on an 11-4 run.

“Our young women understand defense is the staple of our program,” said Robinson. “When we get here in the summer that's the first thing we work on is our principles. We concentrate on the details, we don't worry about whether our shots are falling. We're worried about whether our opponents’ shots are falling.”

The Eagles turned the ball over 26 times and shot 31.7 percent from the floor. Blow came off the bench to score 12 for the Eagles. After the Aggies make-up game against Norfolk State, they will face the Hampton Pirates (8-10, 4-1 MEAC) at Corbett Sports Center on Saturday at 2 p.m.