GREENSBORO-On Monday, seniors Nikia Gorham and JaQuayla Berry played their final game in Corbett Sports Center, and picked up their final home victory. Berry recorded 13 points and Nikia Gorham had four points and four rebounds off the bench as the North Carolina A&T women's basketball team defeated Savannah State 58-47.
The win gave the Aggies their first 20-win season since 2009-10. The win also made Tarrell Robinson the first head coach in the history of the women's basketball program to win 20 games in his first year with the team.
But Robinson was not all smiles following the game. Even though the Aggies picked up the win, the team's performance didn't meet his expectations of where his team should be at this point of the season.
"From the beginning to the end, as a team, we had some individuals that played well. But the team didn't come out with a focus," he said. "By no means is this acceptable. Twenty wins doesn't really matter. Our performance was lackluster and disappointing for a head coach."
The Aggies (20-8, 12-3) shot 36 percent from the floor against the Tigers (7-21, 2-13). The Aggies also missed 14 free throws on Monday. A&T was able to overcome an early deficit to lead by six at the half
"Savannah State came to play. Obviously they remembered our win at their place and for the whole game, they were the better team. Shots just fell for us-more shots than for them. My hat goes off to Coach [Cedric] Baker for preparing them," Robinson said. "From a defensive execution stand point, this team allowed them to do what they want and get open shots. Fortunately, we were able to force six more turnovers and capitalize on it. But I just thought we didn't play Lady Aggie basketball."
The Tigers jumped out to a quick 8-3 lead in the first four minutes of the game. A 3-pointer from sophomore Adriana Nazario tied the game 12 with 11:02 to play. A pair of free throws by center Gorham put the Aggies up 14-12. From there, the Aggies did not trail but the Tigers remained competitive.
Savannah State went on a quick 5-0 run to pull within three toward the end of the first half. Redshirt freshman Eboni Ross ended the run with a layup, and junior Tracy King hit a free throw to give the Aggies a 28-22 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Aggies found a way to shut down the Tigers and pull ahead with a 13-0 run, sparked by a layup by Ross that gave A&T a 54-35 lead with 6:08 remaining. Sophomore Jessica Lyon's three steals in a matter of minutes also helped the Aggies offense power ahead. But the Tigers showed that they weren't out of the game. A 3-pointer by Blessing Uba snapped a five-minute scoring drought by the Tigers to make it 54-38 with 5:54 left. Four straight points by Jasmine Norman pulled the Tigers within 12 points at 54-42 with three minutes remaining, but the Tigers never got any closer.
King recorded her third double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds. She also had a team-high five assists in the contest. Ross had 11 points for her sixth consecutive double-figure game. Sophomore Jessica Lyons posted a career-best with five steals in the contest.
"Jessie came off and gave us a spark. She played with intensity. Tracy did a great job rebounding, and Nikia Gorham gave us a spark. No question," said Robinson, but he added overall the team's performance wasn't up to his expectations.
The Aggies will end the regular season on the road at Norfolk State in a 6 p.m., match-up on Thursday. They will look to secure the No. 2 seed for the MEAC Championship Tournament, held in Norfolk, Va. from March 11-16.
"I know records don't mean anything in this league. Norfolk playing in their gym is a pretty good team. We have to play our brand of basketball to come out of there with a victory," Robinson said.