Mistakes Lead to Another Close Home Loss For A&T
GREENSBORO (February 13, 2017) – Despite what they have done thus far in 2016-17, South Carolina State was picked to finish second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season for a reason. The Bulldogs returned a veteran squad that played for the MEAC title last season. Therefore, N.C. A&T head coach Jay Joyner knew his Aggies team could not afford to make too many mistakes Monday night.
In what turned out to be another close loss at home, the Aggies did make too many mistakes in a 72-65 defeat at Corbett. The Aggies turned the ball over 17 times which gave the Bulldogs a 21-8 advantage in points off turnovers. Redshirt junior James Whitaker led the Aggies with 16 points and 10 rebounds, giving him his second double-double of the season. Three more Aggies scored in double figures with graduate center Aaron Scales finishing with 14. Junior Davaris McGowens came off the bench to produce 12 points and six rebounds, while junior Sam Hunt had 10 points and four assists.
“I think the guys fought tonight. I really do,” said Joyner, who spent his collegiate basketball career at S.C. State from 1993-96. “We just can’t seem to produce enough effort to get over the hump. Against Florida A&M we had eight turnovers in 40 minutes. Tonight, we had nine turnovers in the first half. You really can’t beat a team that knows how to win like South Carolina State with 17 turnovers.”
The Bulldogs (8-17, 5-7 MEAC) also helped their cause by hitting some big shots late to match the big shots the Aggies were hitting down the stretch. N.C. A&T (2-24, 0-11 MEAC) faced a nine-point deficit with 7 ½ minutes to play. Over the next two minutes that deficit became three points as Hunt, who has hit 43 straight free throws, made two more to put the Aggies down 56-53.
Bulldogs guard Eric Eaves, who had 27 against the Aggies in Orangeburg, S.C., last season, found his rhythm against the Aggies again on Monday as he finished with a game-high 20 points. His three pushed the Bulldogs lead to 59-53 with 5:06 remaining. The Aggies worked hard again to get their deficit back down to three, 60-57, on a Scales layup. A Tashombe Riley jumper and a free throw from Eaves got the lead back to six before Scales followed his own miss to put the Aggies down 63-59. After Riley netted another jumper, Hunt brought the Corbett crowd to its feet with a deep three to cut SCSU’s lead to 65-62 with 1:20 to play.
But once again SCSU had a response as Eaves drove to the basket and looked to the corner to find Greg Mortimer for a crushing 3-pointer with 1:06 to play. Hunt did cut the lead to 68-65 with 25 seconds remaining, but there just was not enough time remaining on the clock for the Aggies to pull off the win. “The important thing right now is for us to stay together,” said Joyner. “I know it’s tough right now for everyone involved, but we have to persevere. We can’t rely on pity. We have to show up the next day and keep at it.”
N.C. A&T trailed by as many as 14 in the first half before a Whitaker 3-pointer sparked a 7-0 Aggies run to end the first half trailing the Bulldogs 36-29. There were some upsides for the Aggies on Monday. They were dominant inside with a 38-20 rebounding edge and a 34-20 advantage in points in the paint. The Aggies will try to keep at it again 4 p.m., Saturday when they travel to Washington, D.C., to face the Howard Bison. Howard earned a 78-63 win over the Aggies at Corbett earlier this season.