CLEMSON, S.C. (November 12, 2017) – Trying to incorporate nine newcomers into roles they are not accustomed to while also trying to pick up some confident-boosting wins before the start of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play is the difficult task the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team is pursuing.
The Aggies didn’t look bad trying to do it Sunday afternoon against Power Five, ACC school Clemson. In the end, the Tigers size proved too much to overcome in an 87-63 Aggies loss at Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson (2-0) outscored the Aggies (1-1) 48-24 in the paint as they used a strong inside presence to open the second half to pull away from N.C. A&T.
Clemson shot 55.9 percent from the floor, 62 percent in the second and from inside 3-point range they were 27-for-40 (.675). Clemson’s size didn’t seem to bother N.C. A&T junior center Femi Olujobi. After posting 34 points and 10 rebounds against Division III Greensboro College Friday night, Olujobi’s encore performance was a 20-point, four-rebound afternoon against the Tigers.
“In my humble opinion, I thought Femi was the best player on the floor tonight,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner. “Make no mistake about it, he is definitely our go-to-guy. But when he came out of the game tonight, we didn’t have anyone to score for us. We’re still in the process of finding that second scorer – that guy that can pick up the slack when (Olujobi) is not out there.”
Graduate guard Devonte Boykins is a contender for that role. He chipped in with 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range. Boykins will be asked to score more than he did at Georgia Southern, where he averaged 3.8 points. Boykins is not uncommon from many of the Aggie newcomers.
“We have guys who are coming from situations where they weren't the go-to guys. It's a whole other thing to be the guy night after night and perform. It's going to take time in terms of game experience.”
N.C. A&T had some solutions early for the Tigers. After a Mark Donnal 3-pointer gave the Tigers a 22-12 lead, Boykins responded with a three after fifth-year forward Denzel Keyes grabbed an offensive rebound and threw the ball out to the perimeter. Junior college Malik Gantz hit another three to bring the Aggies to within four with 11:24 remaining in the first half.
The Aggies were attempting to cut even deeper into the Tiger advantage when freshman point Kameron Langley broke free down the lane and dished a bounce pass off to a wide open Olujobi. But before Olujobi could finish with a dunk, Langley was called for an offensive foul. It was Langley’s second foul of the half, forcing the starting point guard to the bench. Clemson took advantage of Langley’s absence by going on a 9-2 run to take a 31-20 lead with 8:16 to play.
“That was big because he does a great job of running our offense,” said Joyner. “For a freshman to come in here and play with the poise he played with against a Clemson tells you a lot about the type of player he can be in our program.”
Without Langley on the floor for the Aggies, the Tigers took a 41-29 lead into the locker room. Clemson then opened the half on a 12-3 run to take a 53-32 lead. Ten of the Tigers points came in the paint during the run as the Aggies never got any closer than 17 the rest of the way.
“I know they were bigger than we were, but regardless, they got way too many points in the paint,” said Joyner. “We'll have to correct some things on our ball-screen defense, but we'll get there.”
N.C. A&T will continue its growth process Wednesday at 7 p.m., when they face The Citadel at Corbett Sports Center.