ORANGEBURG, S.C. (January 5, 2019) –North Carolina A&T ended a lengthy losing streak against the South Carolina Bulldogs in the strangest ways Saturday night at the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
Through all the highs and lows, the Aggies came away with a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) season-opening 80-77 overtime win in men’s hoops. Junior Qua Copeland led the Aggies as he scored all 18 of his points after the first half. His 8-for-12 shooting from the floor complemented senior Milik Gantz’s 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the floor.
Senior Aaren Edmead scored a season-high 14 points. He scored in double figures for the first time this season. Freshman Tyrone Lyons matched his season high with 10 points. The Aggies (5-9, 1-0 MEAC) ended a five-game overall losing streak to the Bulldogs (2-13, 0-1 MEAC) and they won at the S-H-M Memorial Center for the first time since Feb. 25,
Odd occurrences happened before those streaks ended, however.
It all looked promising for N.C. A&T with 7 ½ minutes remaining in regulation. Graduate center Ibrahim Sylla went to the basket and took hard blows from Armani Hill and Ian Kinard. Hill was called for a common foul and Hill was called for a flagrant foul. It led to the Aggies being granted four free throws and the basketball.
Sylla missed the two free throws for the common foul, but Copeland hit both of the free throws from the technical foul to give the Aggies a 50-43 lead. After the Aggies were granted possession after the foul shots, Edmead scored on a layup to put the Aggies ahead by nine. Edmead followed that bucket with two free throws to give N.C. A&T a 54-43 lead with 5 ½ minutes to play.
SCSU hit four 3-pointers over the final five minutes of regulations. Lavar Harewood’s three with 51 seconds remaining cut the Aggies lead to 62-59. Copeland answered with a couple of dribbles into the lane before pulling up for a jump shot just inside the free throw line to give the Aggies a five-point advantage with 37 seconds remaining.
Five seconds later, Jahmari Etienne hit another three for the Bulldogs to cut the lead to 64-62. On the ensuing in-bounds play, Edmead tried to catch the pass coming in but was surprisingly called for a hook and hold which is considered a flagrant foul. The Bulldogs received two free throws at the ball out of bounds.
Point guard Janai Raynor-Powell hit both free throws to tie the game at 64, but Raynor-Powell missed the game-winning shot to send the game into overtime.
“They didn’t make it easy, but when you’re trying to get the monkey off your back, I guess this is how you’ve got to do it,” said N.C. A&T head coach Jay Joyner who got his first win over S.C. State since coming to N.C. A&T as the Aggies associate head coach before the 2012-13 season. Joyner played college basketball at S.C. State from 1993-96.
“Tonight, we showed a lot of grit, which I’m proud of,” Joyner continued. “But I also have a headache because I thought we did some things that were not very smart down the stretch. You can’t be successful on a consistent basis playing that way. But I’ll definitely take the win as opposed to the loss.”
Joyner saw his team fall behind 68-64 over the first minute of overtime. Dribble penetration then became the Aggies friend over the next three minutes. Gantz went to the basket twice and Lyons and Copeland also scored on layups. When junior Ronald Jackson hit two free throws, it completed a 10-0 Aggies run to give the Aggies a 74-68 lead 65 seconds remaining in overtime.
But Etienne started making things interesting again when he hit a 3-pointer to cut the Aggies lead to 76-73 with 42 seconds to play. The Aggies immediately turned the ball over, which led to a foul on Lyons. SCSU’s Raynor-Powell hit both free throws to make it 76-75. But the Aggies went 4-for-4 from the line over the last 30 seconds of the game as Gantz hit two and graduate forward Terry Harris hit the other two to seal the win. Harewood led the Bulldogs with 22 points.
“I’m so happy we got the ‘W’ as opposed to the ‘L’ because it was a hard-fought game,” said Joyner. “Once you give the home team life, they start hitting shots, that’s just the way the game goes. But we showed toughness and we won on the road, but we still have a ton of work to do.”