GREENSBORO (February 3, 2018) – Some unpredictable occurrences have gone North Carolina A&T’s way this season to put the Aggies on pace to have the program’s best regular season in 30 years.
One, fifth-year forward Denzel Keyes decided to put his professional football dreams on hold, return to school full-time and use up his final year of men’s basketball eligibility in 2017-18. Two, junior college transfer Femi Olujobi opened 2017-18 like a man amongst boys to lead the Aggies to a 5-1 start. Lastly, a Greensboro native named Kameron Langley has been as about as consistent, wise precise as you can ask a true freshman point guard to be.
In the Aggies 92-84 win over the Hampton Pirates Saturday night at Corbett Sports Center, Langley tied a season high with 17 points, dished out seven assists and did not turn the ball over. On the season, Langley has 110 assists and only 43 turnovers to lead the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.56). On Saturday, he was so good he ended the half by racing down court to put himself in position to throw up a wild toss that hit off the square of the backboard and went in at the buzzer to give the Aggies a 49-40 halftime lead.
“I was really trying to get a shot up,” said Langley. “I kind of just threw it and it happened to go in. I don’t practice that shot much.”
The Aggies needed Langley to be efficient because the Pirates shot 50 percent from the field each half and Lysander Bracey was superb from 3-point range, hitting 6 of 7 for 20 points off the Pirates bench. But as good as the Pirates offese was, the Aggies O was even better. The Aggies shot a season-high 58.6 percent from the floor including 66.7 percent in the second half. They posted 23 assists to only eight turnovers and made 8 of 21 from 3-point range. Still, the 84 points surrendered makes N.C. A&T head coach Jay Joyner uneasy.
“We finally looked really good offensively in terms of executing our sets,” said Joyner who saw his team exceed 90 points for the sixth time this season and for the first time since scoring 115 against Mid-Atlantic Christian on Nov. 21.
“But we gave up way too many points,” Joyner continued. “Eighty-four points is a lot of points. I would like to keep the scores lower because I know we have enough fire power to score 70-plus points on a consistent basis. But you start talking about 90 points and giving up 84 points, I don’t know if we can score 90 points consistently to combat giving up 84 on a consistent basis.”
The Aggies (14-9, 7-1 MEAC) looked good doing it on Saturday. After Langley’s improbable first-half buzzer beater, the Aggies kept the hot-shooting Pirates (9-14, 4-4 MEAC) at a distance by hitting shots. After the Pirates cut the lead to four, 56-52, on a Kalin Fisher 3-pointer, senior Davaris McGowens hit a jumper and redshirt junior Amari Hamilton came off the bench and made a jump shot that bounced around the rim before going through the basket for a 60-52 lead at the 14:25 mark.
Hampton pulled to within five on a Bracy 3-pointer, but the Aggies put together a 7-2 run capped off by a Langley layup to take a 67-57 lead. Bracy remained hot from 3-point range, knocking down two within a minute to cut the Aggies lead to 69-63 with 10:39 to play. But Hamilton answered with a 3-pointer and eventually Keyes hit a jump shot to push the Aggies lead back to 10 at 75-65.
Senior Charles Wilson-Fisher got the Pirates to within six again 75-69, on a layup. However, the Aggies had yet another offensive push as Olujobi put togheter a 3-point play after getting a pass from Keyes. Junior Aaren Edmead pushed the lead to 11 at 80-69 with 6:19 to go with a jumper. Langley then put the game away with a drive to the basket that resulted in a layup and a foul on Jermaine Marrow. Langley completed the 3-point play to give the Aggies an 83-71 lead with 5:31 to play. The Aggies stayed in control of the game from there.
“I’ve always been comfortable here,” said Langley. “I just do whatever the team needs me to do. If I don’t score and we win, I’m fine. If I score 30 and we win, I’m fine. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do it.”
Langley had help from his teammates as all five N.C. A&T starters scored in double figures led by McGowens’ 21 points. Edmead had 14 and Olujobi and graduate guard Devonte Boykins had 11 apiece. Marrow led Hampton with 24 points and nine assists.
The Aggies, who improved to 9-0 at home, have one more game at Corbett before hitting the road as they host Delaware State 7:30 p.m., Monday.
“I'm going to watch this game thoroughly and see why we didn't play well defensively,” said Joyner. “But I'm not going to harp on Hampton too much because we have to get ready in mind to avoid having a major setback on Monday.”