GREENSBORO (January 15, 2018) – The 2017-18 North Carolina A&T men’s basketball season has been fascinating when it comes to who is contributing. Despite the gripping tale that has been there season, the important thing is that they’re winning.
N.C. A&T improved to 6-0 at home and won their seventh straight game at Corbett Sports Center with a 60-47 win over Coppin State Monday night. The Aggies are now 10-8 overall and 3-0 in the MEAC and stand a half game behind 4-0 North Carolina Central and Bethune-Cookman in the standings. The Aggies snapped a five-game losing streak to Coppin.
The Aggies were led by Davaris McGowens who scored in double figures for the fifth straight game with 13 points to go along with six rebounds. Early in the season, it was junior center Femi Olujobi rolling up the big numbers by scoring 20-plus points in his first six games, but on Monday he failed to score in double figures for the first time since becoming an Aggie.
As the season progressed, the Aggies started getting contribution from a variety of players including a 25-point game at East Carolina from junior Aaren Edmead, a 21-point outburst from reserve guard Milik Gantz at Georgetown, a 17-point outing from fifth-year forward Denzel Keyes at Delaware State and a 13-point day from redshirt junior Amari Hamilton on Saturday versus Morgan State after he went scoreless in his previous four games.
But again, it’s working for the Aggies thus far.
“Two months ago, I knew for certain one guy (Olujobi) was going to score. Now, it’s like playing musical chairs. We’ve got to get the whole band back together,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner. “I’m happy for the win, but not happy with the performance, clearly.”
Joyner did get enough production from his group to defeat 1-19 Coppin State who dropped to 1-4 in the MEAC. But Joyner based the win on the Aggies making enough plays to pull away and the fact they are a little more talented than the Eagles at this point. But Joyner could not base the win on hard work, which bothered him.
“I thought we played the record as opposed to just playing hard for 40 minutes,” said Joyner. “Tonight’s challenge was to get our program better. I thought we took a step back even though we won. Thank goodness basketball is a long season. We need to fix things for a very tough Norfolk State team that’s going to come in here and play extremely hard.”
N.C. A&T got away with its play on Monday perhaps because they did have a fast start to the second half. After leading the Eagles 27-21 at the half, graduate guard Devonte Boykins netted a 3-pointer 20 seconds into the second half to give the Aggies a 9-point lead. Edmead gave the Aggies a double-figures lead by connecting on a three at the top of the key to give the Aggies a 35-24 lead. The Aggies lead never got under 10 again and when junior forward Japhet Kadji scored on a 3-pointer with 6:17 remaining in the game, the Aggies had their biggest lead of the game at 56-39.
McGowens helped the Aggies pull away in the second half with nine second-half points. Edmead was the only other Aggie in double figures with 10 points. Freshman point guard Kameron Langley has been consistent with protecting the basketball. He leads the MEAC in assists-to-turnover ratio and had eight assists and only two turnovers on Monday.
“He’s emerged over the last several games to be the most consistent player on this team,” said Joyner. “But it goes back to it’s not how you start, it’s how your finish. A month ago, he was barely playing trying to break his way into the rotation because of the success we had early in the season.
We started him in Vegas against Lamar, and he hasn’t looked back. Now, I need four or five guys to get on the same page.”
If that happens, it will add more fascination to the 2017-18 season as the Aggies continue to win.
Karonn Davis led the Eagles with 11 points. The Aggies will try to extend their three-game winning streak as they host Norfolk State 7:30 p.m., Wednesday at Corbett.