EAST GREENSBORO (February 11, 2019) –North Carolina A&T stayed in contention for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) men’s basketball regular-season title on Monday with a 68-61 win over Maryland Eastern Shore at Corbett Sports Center.
But Aggies head coach Jay Joyner knows that title will not come with sloppiness. The Aggies overcame 10 first-half turnovers to allow their guard play take over in the second half.
Point guard Kam Langley dished out nine assists and had just one turnover. His starting backcourt mate senior Aaren Edmead finished with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting and Andre Jackson came off the bench to lead the Aggies in scoring with 14 points on 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range. Graduate center Ibrahim Sylla provided the Aggies inside presence with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“Basketball is not a complicated sport. If you play the right way, you’re going to have success more often than not,” said Joyner who moved to 19-7 in the conference over the past two seasons. “We had a team in Maryland Eastern Shore coming in here still trying to figure some things out and we help them out by giving them points in transition. They fed off that and we were deflated in the first half.”
The Hawks (4-23, 2-10 MEAC) scored 12 points off the Aggies first-half turnovers. Joyner said the game plan was to push the ball in transition. But the first half mishaps took them away from that. With only two turnovers and tenacious defense in the second half, the Aggies plans were more effective.
After trailing 31-23 at the half, the Aggies took the lead within the first six minutes of the second half thanks to intense on-ball defense from the Aggies backcourt. Fifth-year forward Terry Harris used one of those defensive opportunities as he netted a three in transition off a pass from Langley to give the Aggies a 40-37 lead.
The Aggies improved play was solid, but the Hawks did not go away. A lob pass from Bryan Urrutia led to a dunk by Canaan Bartley to tie the game at 48 with eight minutes to play. The Hawks took a 50-49 lead 40 seconds later on a layup from Urrutia.
But Andre Jackson whose only other double-figure scoring game this season came on Nov. 10 at Wake Forest (18 points), responded by swishing a three to give the Aggies a 52-50 lead with 7:09 remaining. N.C. A&T never trailed again. After calling a 30-second timeout, the Aggies came out and set up a play for Sylla that resulted in a pass from Langley to Sylla for a dunk and a four-point Aggies lead.
Edmead gave the Aggies their biggest lead of the game to that point in the game when tossed up a swish right before the shot clock expired to put the Aggies ahead 56-50 with 4:32 remaining.
“In the first half, our guard play wasn’t very good. That’s just a fact,” said Joyner. “In the second half, I thought Edmead played well, I thought Kam played well and Andre Jackson was great coming off the bench. It’s a luxury to be able to look down your bench and know you have several guys you can give a shot to and they can go out and do it. Andre definitely responded to have an opportunity.”
The Hawks did get the lead down to three, 58-55, on a 3-point play by A.J. Cheeseman with 3:19 to play. But Jackson came through again for the Aggies. His 3-pointer from the top of the key gave the Aggies a six-point advantage. Two free throws from Ronald Jackson iced the game for the Aggies giving the Aggies a 63-55 lead with 1:22 to play.
The Aggies shot 54.5 percent in the second half and made 7 of 10 3-pointers. Graduate guard Ryan Andino led the Hawks with 11 points. The Aggies have another challenging Saturday-Monday road swing after going 0-2 on their last road trip through Florida. N.C. A&T plays a tough Howard (12-13, 6-4 MEAC) team in Washington, D.C., before facing the No. 1 team in the MEAC in Norfolk State (14-11, 9-1 MEAC) at Echols Hall.
“You can’t start talking about being that team until you can do your job for 40 minutes,” said Joyner. “We’re not doing the little things that I harp on that unless you’re a coach or a true student of the game, you really don’t see. Yes, we won. Yes, we came back. But there is more to it than that. That’s why I can’t be completely happy with being 8-2 because we’re doing the little things that matter.”