LAS VEGAS (December 22, 2017) – North Carolina A&T almost be the odds in Las Vegas Friday afternoon but their inability to come away with a loose ball late prevented the Aggies from defying the odds in a 66-60 loss to Radford at Orleans Arena.
It was the Aggies (6-7) third game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic, and the first game they played in Vegas. N.C. A&T, who dropped below .500 for the first time this season, will face Lamar Saturday at 3 p.m. (EST) at Orleans Arena. The Aggies are 3-2 in Las Vegas all-time.
“We let one get away today. That’s simply what happened,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner about the Aggies loss to Radford.
The Highlanders (6-6) certainly almost let a win get away. They led by 11 with 4 ½ minutes remaining and they led by 10 with 2 ½ minutes remaining. But the Aggies started their rally on the very thing that hurt them in the final seconds, an offensive rebound. Junior Femi Olujobi took down the 3-point miss from graduate guard Devonte Boykins and whipped a pass to freshman guard Kameron Langley for a 3-point basket that cut Radford’s lead to 62-55.
After a missed layup from RU’s Randy Phillips, Boykins raced down the floor and scored on a layup to cut the lead to five with 1:33 remaining in the game. Another RU miss led to a Kameron Langley transition attempt. Langley missed the layup, but was hurt and fouled on the play. Junior guard Milik Gantz stepped in for him and hit the first of two free throws.
Gantz’s second free throw came up short, but Olujobi picked up another offensive board, pounded a bounce pass to Gantz racing in from the free throw line to cut the Highlanders lead to 62-60 with 52 seconds remaining.
“When we do things the right way, when we play the right way, we’re really good,” said Joyner. “Right now, as a coaching staff we’re looking for consistency. We have to give maximum effort all the time.”
An offensive rebound after a Devonnte Holland miss would illustrate Joyner’s point. Radford’s leading scorer Carlik Jones beat the Aggies to the loose ball that resulted from the miss. It led to Travis Fields, Jr., hitting two free throws to give Radford a 64-60 lead with 16 seconds remaining. An Olujobi missed layup sealed the Aggies fate.
“We talk about winning the 50-50 ball battle all the time,” said Joyner. “They were more aggressive to the 50-50 ball than we were and they came away with the win. You hope the guys will start to see some of things you’re telling them in practice and in film and start to improve.’
Olujobi had his seventh 20-plus point performance and seventh double-double of the season with 23 points and 11 rebounds on 9-for-14 shooting. The only other Aggie who scored in double figures was Gantz who had 11 off the bench. The Aggies were just 3-for-21 from 3-point range.
“Femi is our first option, there is no question about that. But we need more consistency from our supporting cast,” said Joyner. “Gantz is an aggressive scorer. He is good off the bounce, but he had two crucial turnovers (offensive fouls) late in the game because he was too aggressive. Any time you have trouble scoring outside of the guy you know is going to give you scoring, you’re going to be hit or miss.
That’s tough. In most cases you know what Femi is going to give you offensively. Right now, we need a second option who is going to be consistent.”
Jones led the Highlanders with 14 points.