NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (November 30, 2017) – The North Carolina A&T saw its four-game winning streak come to an end Thursday night with a 72-59 loss to Central Connecticut State at Detrick Gymnasium. The Aggies, who came into the game shooting 50.6 percent for the season, had their worst shooting performance of the season (37.5 percent), while also hitting only 3 of their 22 3-point attempts.
Despite the loss, the Aggies (5-2) five-win November is still the best in school history. In winning their fourth straight, the Blue Devils (4-3) played a zone defense most of the night against the high-scoring Aggies who were 11th in the nation in scoring before Thursday’s contest.
“We were not aggressive enough tonight, offensively,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner. “They didn’t prevent us from driving to the basket, we just weren’t aggressive enough to put the ball on the floor, penetrate and look to either pass or score. We were pounding the ball on the floor too much and looking to go one-on-one. Several guys forced it too much offensively.”
The Blue Devils tried to keep the nation’s leading scorer, N.C. A&T’s Femi Olujobi away from the basketball with their zone. They were effective in the first half, holding the Aggies big man to only two points in the first half. Olujobi had a season-low 14 for the game. Junior Japhet Kadji led the Aggies with 15 points and a season-high nine rebounds.
“We didn’t play our best basketball unfortunately,” said Joyner. “When you don’t play your best basketball on the road this is what happens. We turned the ball over way too many times, and we forced way too many shots. Tonight, it came down to shot selection, and we did not guard at all.”
CCSU shot 51 percent from the floor. They used Tyler Kohl and Eric Bowles’ ability to drive to the basket and dish off to their big men. Kohl’s drive to the basket and score with three minutes into the second half, gave the Blue Devils a 39-26 lead. The Blue Devils still held a double-digit lead five minutes later when Joe Hugley scored inside for a 47-35 lead.
But the Aggies started to cut into the lead from that point. An Amari Hamilton jump shot got the Aggies to within eight, 49-41 with 10:26 to play. Kadji’s jump shot cut the lead to six before Hamilton’s two free throws sliced it to four. But the Blue Devils went back to what was working for them earlier. Bowles put the ball on the floor, got to the basket and found an open Hugley for a dunk.
The dunk sparked a 9-2 run that put the Blue Devils up by double figures again at 58-47 with 6:28 to play. N.C. A&T never got the lead under 10 again.
For the first time all season, the Aggies had more turnovers (15) than assists (6). Kohl led the Blue Devils with 11 points and six assists. Hugley had 21 points and eight rebounds. Bowles added five assists. The Aggies are back in action 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 2 at Presbyterian.
“Each game we preach we have to win the 50-50 battles and tonight they wanted the loose balls more than we did,” said Joyner. “When you have keys to the game, and you don’t accomplish any of them the consequence is a loss. But we’ll go to South Carolina and try to get it fixed.”