LINCOLN, Neb.-The North Carolina A&T women's basketball team had their first challenge of the season, and came up a little short as they lost to No. 18 Nebraska 68-50 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday evening in their season opener.
"They played harder than us," said A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson, who made his debut on Friday. "That's something that we're working on and trying to get to that level. This here was a great test to let us know where we need to get if we want to be where Nebraska is with this program, being 18th in the country."
Robinson, who has been emphasizing defense with this year's team, saw the Aggies hold All-America candidate Jordan Hooper to just seven points, while keeping fellow All-America candidate Lindsey Moore to just nine first-half points.
"We did a good job on Hooper and did a good job on Moore early. We were able to identify shooters, and then one of the biggest things--transition defense, just boxing out," Robinson said. "Finishing off plays with box outs, we did that early and then just kind of wore down as the game got going. They had 30 points in the paint to our 14. We just didn't box out toward the end, we didn't do what we did early in the game to stay in it."
A pair of free throws from senior forward JaQuayla Berry pulled A&T to within seven at 45-38 with 15:20 left in the game. But from there, the Aggies weren't able to clamp down on the Husker offense. Seven minutes later, the Aggies trailed 58-45. Over the last six minutes of the game, the Huskers went on a 10-5 run to close out the game.
"They went from going over the screens to under, which made our guards have to adjust and be more aggressive. From there, we did a poor job of continuing to execute," said Robinson, adding that the Huskers changed their defense with every play, challenging the Aggies. "We started playing one-on-one basketball, and again, that's something that I'm trying to get our players to understand that that's not going to help us be successful."
The Cornhuskers (1-0) were also able to take advantage of A&T miscues, scoring 17 points off 20 Aggie turnovers in the contest. Nebraska outshot and outrebounded the Aggies in the contest.
But the Aggies (0-1) put in a good showing in the first half. A jumper by sophomore Ariel Bursey tied the game at 14 with 11:23 on the clock. Two minutes later, redshirt freshman Eboni Ross put A&T ahead 16-14 with a putback. A jumper by Bursey put A&T up by 18-14 for their largest lead of the game. A 3-pointer from junior guard Tracy King gave A&T the lead at 23-22 with 4:28 left.
But the Cornhuskers went on a 13-2 run in the last four minutes, as the Aggies missed seven shots, to pull ahead 35-25 at the break.
"We're a work in progress. If we can build from this, understand how hard we've got to play, how hard we've got to compete, I think we'll be ok moving forward," Robinson said.
The Aggies will take on Omaha (0-0) on Monday at 8 p.m., for the Mavericks' season opener. A&T will return to Greensboro and host their home opener on Friday, Nov. 16 against Iona at 6 p.m., in Corbett Sports Center.