DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 4, 2019) – The North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team is okay. Yes, their 69-53 loss to Bethune-Cookman Monday night at Moore Gymnasium gives the Aggies an 0-2 road trip after they lost to Florida A&M on Saturday.
But the Aggies still enjoy a 6-2 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference record while they fell to 11-11 overall. Thanks to a 4-0 start on the road in conference play, the Aggies are 4-2 in conference road games which means they only have two remaining away games in MEAC play. One of those games is against conference leader Norfolk State who stands at 8-0 in the MEAC.
The Aggies also still have six home games remaining as they try to chase down the Spartans. N.C. A&T returns home this weekend hoping to repair their shooting woes. The Aggies have shot below 40 percent in their last three games including Monday night when they shot 35.1 percent. They were also 7-for-43 from 3-point range over their two games in Florida.
Senior guard Aaren Edmead, who made just his fifth start of the season on Monday, led the Aggies with 14 points. Edmead and graduate center Ibrahim Sylla helped the Aggies get off to a good start. In fact, the Aggies shot 44.4 percent in the first half and looked well on their way to recovering from a Florida A&M game in which they only scored 39 points.
When Sylla took an entry pass from freshman pass from Tyrone Lyons and dunked the basketball, the Aggies held their biggest lead of the game at 25-14 with 4:15 remaining in the game. B-CU scored the next six points to cut the lead to five before an Edmead three pushed the Aggies lead back to eight. But a baseline jumper from Mark Gordon and a layup from Dondre Duffus made a 28-24 game at halftime.
“I thought we came out with the right energy,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner. “We, unfortunately, didn’t match that same energy in the second half. Bethune-Cookman really wanted to beat us because when you’re in the position we’re in, in the conference everybody wants to give you their best shot.
Our guys have to learn to give maximum effort whether the shots are falling or not. If the shots are not falling you must dominate on the glass. We didn’t do that.”
The Aggies were outrebounded 25-16 in the second half and the Wildcats had a 20-7 advantage in second-chance points for the game. Despite the issues on the board, graduate forward Terry Harris’ 3-pointer to open the second half gave the Aggies a 31-24 lead. The Wildcats responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game two minutes into the second half.
There were eight lead changes and four ties from there until B-CU’s Shawntrez Davis’ jump shot in the lane gave the Wildcats a 46-44 with 9:06 to play. Duffus followed that with a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a five-point advantage. The Aggies never took the lead again.
When B-CU’s Cletrell Pope followed his own miss with a dunk the Wildcats had their first double-digit lead of the game a 59-49 with 3:04 to play. The Aggies never got the lead under 10 from that point.
“I think we let up defensively in the second half,” said Joyner. “We let them score 45 points in the second half. Until we get our young men to understand this game is about defense and not strictly about offense we’re going to have our ups and downs.”
Malik Maitland led the Wildcats (9-10, 5-4 MEAC) with 17 points. The Aggies will play their first home in three weeks when they face Delaware State 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9 at Corbett Sports Center.
“We’re 4-2 in the conference on the road. That’s not a bad place to be,” said Joyner. “We finally get a chance to get back home and play in front of our fans and get healthy for the stretch run.”