GREENSBORO - Defense continues to be North Carolina A&T's most effective weapon. Five games into the season, no one has been able to score more than 60 points against the A&T women's basketball team.
Winston-Salem State was the latest victim as the Aggies cruised to a 56-43 win over the Rams Sunday afternoon at Corbett Sports Center. The Rams shot just 12 percent from the field in the first half and 25 percent for the game. In fact, the Rams trailed 24-11 at halftime.
"Right now, I'm okay with our lack of execution on some of our offensive sets because I know our ladies don't understand the purpose and all the principles of all of those sets yet. I feel like that will come with time," said A&T coach Tarrell Robinson. "But we've focused on defense since the day I first took the job. I think if we can continue to play well defensively throughout the season, we'll be in position to win a MEAC Championship."
After being hired as the women's coach at A&T, Robinson noticed the Aggies scored 70 points per game, but also gave up nearly as many on the defensive end. He believed if he could get his ladies to make defense more of a priority, the Aggies could improve upon their 15-win season from the 2011-12 season.
The Aggies (3-2) have won three straight, and despite their loss to nationally-ranked Nebraska, they held the Cornhuskers to just 58 points. Opponents are shooting just 37.5 percent against A&T from the field and 24.4 percent from 3-point range. The strong showing on the defensive side will aid the Aggies while they try to improve their offensive precision.
A&T did shoot a season-high 46.8 percent from the floor, and dominated Winston-Salem State around the basket by scoring 36 of its 56 points in the paint. But A&T did turn it over 19 times in a game that was largely played at a slow pace.
"I'm happy with the win," said Robinson. "I'm not happy that we turned the ball over 19 times, and I'm not happy we allowed them to score 32 points in the second half. I was fairly confident in what the outcome would be today, so I was more interested in how we were going to get it done. We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball, and we have to make better decisions with our passes."
It took the Rams more than 6 ½ minutes to score to open the second half. The Aggies took advantage of their height advantage by scoring around the basket. Ten of their first 12 second-half points came in the paint as they took a 36-14 lead with 11:46 remaining in the game. The Aggies also effectively used their bench on Sunday. Tiffanie Adair, a member of the All-MEAC Rookie team last season, led the Aggies with 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in a reserve role. Center Eboni Ross came off the bench to score four points, block four shots, grab nine rebounds and dish out three assists.
"I'm still trying to figure everyone out. I'm still trying to figure out what I can get out of certain individuals," said Robinson. "As we move into the conference, as the season progresses, I feel like we have a lot of depth at every position. There are 10 people on this team I could start depending on this or that."
Starting A&T point guard Adriana Nazario gave the Aggies their biggest lead of the game, 50-26, with 6:01 remaining. The Rams did shoot the ball better toward the game's end, but they still trailed 56-36 with a little more than a minute remaining in the game.
The Aggies will try to continue their defensive ways when they face the Richmond Spiders on the road Wednesday evening at 4. The Aggies will then play their first conference game of the season, a showdown with archrival N.C. Central, which starts Saturday afternoon at 2 at Corbett.