No. 4 North Carolina A&T (19-13) vs. No. 5 Norfolk State (14-18)
Date: March 8, 2018
Time: 8 p.m.
Facility: Norfolk Scope Arena
Series: Norfolk State leads, 27-19
Radio: ESPN Triad Radio, 1320AM/1230 AM/93.7 FM/104.9 FM
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Davaris McGowens (6-7, 230, Sr., 11.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg); F Kwei Lartey (6-4, 200, Jr., 3.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg); G Kameron Langley (6-2, 205, Fr., 7.1 ppg, 5.0 apg); G Devonte Boykins (6-2, 180, Gr., 9.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg); C Femi Olujobi (6-8, 233, Jr., 16.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
AGGIES OVERVIEW: North Carolina A&T enters Thursday night’s quarterfinal game of the MEAC tournament against Norfolk State looking for their first semifinal appearance in five years. If the Aggies win, it will be just their second semifinal appearance in 20 years with the other appearance coming in 2007. The Aggies defeated the Spartans at Corbett Sports Center on Jan. 18, 71-68, on a Devonte Boykins 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining. The Spartans overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to tie the game at 68 before Boykins hit his big shot. Boykins was 4-for-6 from 3-point range and had 12 points in the win. The win over the Spartans snapped the Aggies six-game losing streak to the Spartans dating back to the 2010-11 season. The Aggies shot 49 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range, but they turned the ball over 19 times in the first contest.
NORFOLK STATE OVERVIEW: After losing to the Aggies, the Spartans got hot. They are 11-3 since losing to the Aggies on Jan. 18. They beat co-regular-season champion Bethune-Cookman twice during that span and were 1-1 against Savannah State who also shared the MEAC regular-season crown. The Spartans only other two losses during their hot streak came against archrival, co-regular-season champion and tournament top-seed Hampton. The Spartans were on a five-game winning streak before Hampton defeated them 74-71 in the regular-season finale on March 1. The Spartans defeated 12th-seeded Maryland Eastern Shore 78-68 in the opening round of the MEAC tournament on Monday. om 3-point range during the season. Amazingly, the Spartans have had seven different leading scorers over their past 14 games. Steven Whitley leads the team in scoring (12.2 ppg). Alex Long had 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting against the Aggies in January.
Stepping Up: Fifth-year forward Denzel Keyes is one of the best offensive rebounders in the MEAC. He has at least one offensive board in his last seven games. He is averaging 3.6 offensive rebounds over his last seven games.
News & Notes:
The Aggies have been unlucky in the tournament. N.C. A&T has made the semifinals only twice (2007, 2013) in the past 20 seasons. The Aggies have only been in the championship game twice (1997, 2013) in the past 21 years. The Aggies have just nine tournaments wins since the 2000 season.
The Aggies come into tonight’s game 19-13 after a 3-29 2016-17 season, a 16-game turnaround from the Aggies 3-29 effort from last season. For his turnaround efforts, N.C. A&T head coach Jay Joyner was named coach of the year in the MEAC. He is the first Aggie coach to win MEAC coach of the year since Don Corbett did it after the 1987-88 season.
This will be the third time Norfolk State and A&T have played in the MEAC tournament. NSU won the first matchup 76-55 in Richmond, Va., on March 10, 2003. The Aggies were just 1-26 that season. A&T even the MEAC tournament series on March 8, 2007 when the Aggies knocked off the Spartans 81-66 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC.
The Aggies are looking to win 20 games in a season for the 17th time in school history. It will be their first 20-win season in five years and just their third in the past 30 years.