GREENSBORO - North Carolina A&T women's basketball picked up its first come-from-behind victory of the year, defeating William & Mary 85-78 on Friday afternoon at Corbett Sports Center.
"I'm glad to have gotten this win going into our break. One of the things we talked about in coming back from our performance against Charlotte was that we said this here was a character game," said A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson. "How would we respond? Where was our focus? I told them this was a character game and we needed to respond."
And respond they did.
Forwards JaQuayla Berry and Tracy King led the way. Berry scored a season-high 29, grabbed nine rebounds and recorded four steals, while King added 20 points, five boards and four assists.
Entering into Friday's contest, the Aggies were 0-4 when behind at the half. They trailed by three at the half, but their situation was even more critical than just being down at halftime. With 8:10 to play, The Tribe held a 71-62 lead thanks to a 9-0 run. The run compelled A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson to call a timeout. A&T regrouped after the timeout and answered back by going on a 9-0 run, capped off with a layup by Berry to tie the game with five minutes remaining.
A pair of free throws by sophomore Adriana Nazario gave the Aggies the lead for good. Senior Nikia Gorham picked up a key layup to give A&T a 75-71 cushion with 3:34 remaining. Redshirt junior Amber Calvin put the game away for A&T with six free throws in in the waning minute of the contest.
The game featured 11 lead changes and seven ties, and the Aggies were able to pull away with some strong press defense in the second half-something that the team worked on following Tuesday's loss.
"I'm a first-year head coach and I try to learn from mistakes in decisions I might have made the game before. One of the things I regret-how the Charlotte game ended," Robinson said, adding that he didn't call the press until three minutes remaining in the game. In those three minutes, the Aggies cut their deficit from 20 to 10, but weren't able to complete the rally.
On Friday, Robinson called for that press earlier in the contest, which helped propel the Aggies on their 9-0 run.
"I saw them getting into that danger, and I decided to call in our pressers. Our girls have a lot of confidence in our press. We went to our press earlier and we responded," Robinson said. "We turned them over and we were able to convert off our turnovers and we stayed in it until it was under a minute and we pulled it off. That was the difference in the game. It changed the tempo. They didn't do a good job handling our pressure."
It was the highest scoring game the Aggies (6-4) have recorded this season. The team also picked up season-highs with 17 assists, including six from Nazario, and 19 offensive rebounds. The Aggies also beat the Tribe (2-7) on the boards, 43-33. It was also the first game featuring two 20-point performances by A&T since Feb. 25, when Amber Calvin had 23 and Tiffanie Adair had 20 in a 40-point victory at S.C. State. Calvin finished Friday's game with 12, after going 6-for-6 from the line in the second half.
"It was a team effort-everybody played, everybody contributed. My hat goes off to JaQuayla Berry. Our seniors did a lot of good things," said Robinson. "I thought Dri (Nazario), just like Liberty, responded to adversity. Tracy King kept us in early and Amber Calvin finished it with free throws. It was definitely a team effort, and everybody contributed to the victory."
Robinson is still looking for the Aggies to continue to improve and develop their defensive work. The Aggies allowed Emily Correal to score a team-best 30 points for the Tribe, and Aldridge finished with 21 points for William & Mary.
"I was really disappointed with our post defense. We've got to do better in reference to making adjustments," he said.
In the first half, A&T took a 36-30 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers from King with just under five minutes remaining. The Tribe fought back and took a slim two-point lead before King tied it at 44 with 8.8 seconds left in the first half on a pair of free throws. William & Mary got the ball, and a 3-pointer from Aldridge, who went 6-for-10 beyond the arc in the game, beat the buzzer to give the Tribe a 47-44 lead at the half.
The Aggies will enjoy the holiday break before traveling up to Blacksburg, Va. to take on Virginia Tech on Friday, Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. They Aggies are 2-0 in their last two matches against Virginia teams.