WILMINGTON - The North Carolina A&T women's basketball team opened up 2013 action with a 56-47 win against UNC Wilmington on Thursday morning at Trask Coliseum, in front of a near sell-out crowd of boisterous elementary school students.
Getting a road win in front of a vocal crowd was crucial for the Aggies as they wrap up non-conference play this week and prepare for their campaign for their seventh MEAC regular-season title.
"I was telling the girls that any win on the road is big," said head coach Tarrell Robinson, who said that building up confidence in playing on the road is key as the Aggies open up their MEAC slate in Florida on Jan. 12. "Every day we're getting better. We're growing as a team. Our focus is one more game before treating every game as a championship game - that's conference time."
Senior forward JaQuayla Berry led the team with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block. It was her sixth consecutive double-figure game and moves her closer to taking 10th place on the all-time scoring list. Sophomore point guard Adriana Nazario also finished the game with 10 points for the Aggies.
After a slow start, the Aggies (8-5) were able to make some key runs against the Seahawks (1-10) en route to the victory.
A fastbreak layup by Karneshia Garrett pulled UNCW within three at 48-45 with just over three minutes remaining. A layup by Jessica Freeman, who ended the game with a team-best 14 points, made it a 48-47 game, seconds later. After a Robinson called a timeout, Nazario immediately hit a 3-pointer to put the Seahawks away.
"I thought when Adriana Nazario started to be aggressive, that was the turning point," Robinson said. "She started looking for her shot, because it was there. That three she hit out of the timeout was a big play."
The Seahawks put together an 8-0 run to start the game, and retained early control. After a 3-pointer from Freeman put UNCW ahead, 19-11, the Aggies were able to put together a run. A putback by senior center Nikia Gorham tied the game at 19 with 2:35 remaining. Guard Amber Calvin hit a 3-pointer to put A&T in front for the first time at 22-21.
"I thought we did a good job of keeping our composure when they made runs, and when they jumped on us 8-0 in the first half. Sometimes it seemed like there was a lid on the basket," said Robinson, as the Aggies went 9-for-25 in the first half. "Once we started hitting shots, I was comfortable. I was worried that we were one pass and shoot early. We made some adjustments offensively and got a little bit more movement and some opportunities opened up for us."
The Aggies will host George Washington (6-7) on Sunday at 6 p.m., in Corbett Sports Center. They will begin MEAC competition on Jan. 12 at Bethune-Cookman.
"One more test until the final exams, and that's the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. We've got to get ready for George Washington," Robinson said.