GREENVILLE, N.C. (December 28, 2018) – East Carolina gained a big advantage in rebounding early against the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team Friday night and used it to earn a 77-57 win at Minges Coliseum.
ECU was also aided by the fact the Aggies struggled early from the field. The Aggies missed 12 of their first 14 shots and shot just 31 percent from the floor in the first half. The Aggies (4-9) corrected their rebounding issues in the second half holding the ECU advantage to 16-14 on the glass. They also shot better in the second half as they were 12-for-26 (46.2) shooting the ball over the final 20 minutes of the game.
Those are two trends, Aggies coach Jay Joyner hopes carries over to conference play which begins 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 5 at S.C. State.
“It’s frustrating at this point to get outrebounded the way we do. But we must keep working until we fix it,” said Joyner after his team was outrebounded 43-27 against the Pirates. “Guys who have scored the basketball for us well over the last five or six games just didn’t have it tonight. It happens. We’ve got a week to get ready and try to go 1-0 in the conference.”
A spirited ECU (7-5) team looking to avenge an 87-81 loss to the Aggies last season, jumped out to a 12-2 lead over the first four minutes of the game. That lead grew to as many as 17, 31-14, in the first half before the Aggies settled in offensively.
N.C. A&T scored on their next three possessions to cut the Pirates lead to 32-20 with 3:27 to play in the first half. But Pirates guard Shawn Williams, who went 6-for-11 from 3-point range, broke up the Aggies momentum with a 3-pointer from the corner. N.C. A&T continued to play well offensively toward the end of the first half as sophomore point guard Kam Langley swung a pass to junior Ronald Jackson who drove to the basket and skipped a pass to fifth-year guard Amari Hamilton for a 3-pointer that cut the Pirates lead to 36-23.
Two Jackson free throws with 30 seconds remaining in the first half sent the Aggies to the locker room down only 11, 38-27, at the half.
“We didn’t have it tonight. It’s that simple,” said Joyner. “I challenged the guys at halftime to rebound better but they still outrebounded us 43-27. That tells you what type of night it was for us rebounding the ball. If we rebound better, we’re right in the ballgame. But no excuses, we’ve got to get better.”
N.C. A&T did come out and cut the lead to nine to open the second half on a set play to Graduate center Ibrahim Sylla. But two quick misses from 3-point range set the Aggies back and Williams was able to push the ECU lead out to 13, 42-29, with a 3-point short two minutes into the half. The Aggies never got the lead under double figures again even though they were within 12, 51-39, on a Gantz jump shot from the free throw line with 12:03 to play.
But the Pirates were able to expand their lead to 71-50 on a dunk from freshman Jayden Gardner. Five minutes later when the final buzzer sounded at Minges, Joyner turned his attention to conference play. The Aggies first three conference games are on the road.
“We’ve won on the road before this year, so we will be prepared to win on the road again,” said Joyner. “If we play the right way against South Carolina State, God willing, we’ll be 1-0.”
Gantz led the Aggies with 17 points, four rebounds and four steals in 35 minutes of action. He was the only Aggie in double figures. ECU was led by Gardner’s 27 points and 13 rebounds on 9-for-14 shooting. Williams added 18.