ORANGEBURG,S.C.-The North Carolina A&T Aggies had plenty to motivate them coming into Saturday's rematch against S.C. State at Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
First was the opportunity to avenge Feb. 11's 71-68 home loss to the Bulldogs; second was the opportunity to pull two games ahead of the sixth-place Bulldogs in the MEAC standings and third was the opportunity to pull within one victory of head coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs' 500 career win milestone.
The Aggies (13-14, 8-6) capitalized on all three, handing the Bulldogs(11-14, 6-8) a 101-61 loss. It was the second time this season the Aggies have passed the century mark. It was the largest margin of victory in series history and it was the most lopsided win of the Bibbs era.
"Last time they beat us up and down the court," said Bibbs. "Today our kids came out so much energy. It was like this team didn't know who our team was. We were perfect today.
"I'm a happy, happy coach!," she continued. "I loved it. Our kids played hard and with a lot of energy, this is the best seriously I've seen us play all year. It was a great win, and a great win for us to do it on their court."
Redshirt sophomore Amber Calvin posted 23 points, including five 3-pointers, with seven rebounds and a career-high nine assists.
"You know when Amber's on the floor, she just makes things happen. She has that court awareness, but everyone played well. They wanted it," Bibbs said.
Sophomore Tiffanie Adair had 20 points and nine rebounds, and junior JaQuayla Berry added 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a team-high three steals. She is now seven points shy of becoming the 12th player in school history to reach 1,000 points.
Sophomore DeAndra Davis had a career-high 14 points as well. The Aggies shot a season-high 60.9 percent for the game.
"Well it's (S.C. State's) homecoming, and they beat us on our home court," said Bibbs. "(Our ladies) wanted this; they wanted to definitely make a statement. It wasn't so much about this game, it's about what we're looking forward to. We'll take care of business as we go. We're looking forward to taking it into the MEAC tournament."
Entering into the game, the Bulldogs were just one game back behind the Aggies, with two games coming up against sub-.500 MEAC teams to end the season. Making sure they won this match-up to pull two games ahead in the standing was key for the Aggies.
"It's very important because they have N.C. Central and then they have Delaware State. They have another game at home before going on the road. It was just really important to get this game to hopefully keep us competitive for fifth place," Bibbs said.
Ending the year in fifth place in the conference would ensure that the Aggies would face the No. 12 seed in the opening round of the MEAC Tournament.
The Aggies dominated the Bulldogs early. They took a 31-14 lead over the first 10 minutes of the game. A 15-0 run fueled by six Adair points and a pair of Davis field goals gave A&T a 32-point lead. The lead eventually ballooned to a 57-19 halftime lead.
"At halftime, we just said, hey, we gotta go back with the very same thing and go get it," Bibbs said.
The Aggies set a new-season best in first half points, fueled by 65 percent shooting from the floor. While several Aggies had strong performances, Bibbs was truly pleased by Davis'.
"I really liked the energy of DeAndra Davis," Bibbs said. "She played great. She's a lockdown defender. We're very proud of her coming out today."
The Aggies will be looking for more from Davis, Calvin and Berry as the Aggies take on Savannah State in their final road game of the regular season at 6 p.m. on Monday. The Aggies will return home for their season finale against Norfolk State at 5:30 p.m. at Corbett Sports Center on Thursday, March 1.
"We're just looking forward to Monday night. We've got two more games and we'll get it and we'll just keep going. I'm happy and I'm excited. We've got to go in there and play," Bibbs said.