GREENSBORO-There were plenty of positive statistics in North Carolina A&T's 90-73 victory against Morgan State on Saturday afternoon at Corbett Sports Center.
The 90 points marked a new season-high for the women's basketball team, and the Aggies collected a season-best 30 field goals and 27 free throws. Junior Tracy King collected her second double-double on the season by scoring all 22 of her points in the second half and adding a career-high 13 rebounds. The Aggies also had three other players score in double figures as Amber Calvin had 16, Ariel Bursey had a career-high 13 and JaQuayla Berry recorded 14.
But there was one number that stuck out the most to A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson-53.
For a defensive-minded coach like Robinson, few things are rarely as grating than seeing his team allow 53 points in the second half. "I'm happy to finish on the right side of the W-L column. I thought our ladies came out in the first half with a focus on defending. I thought we did a good job with boxing out, knocking out some shots, executing our offense. But in the second half, it went out the window," Robinson said.
The Aggies (11-7, 3-2) held a 17-point lead at the half, after holding the Bears (5-14, 2-4) to just 20 points on 26 percent shooting and 15 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes. But that lead evaporated quickly in the first five minutes of the second half. Morgan State went on a 16-4 run, taking advantage of four 3-pointers, to whittle the A&T lead down to single digits. A 3-pointer by Whitney Southerland made it a four-point game at 43-39 with 15:38 left.
"How we started in the second half is the same with last week [against Howard] with getting comfortable and happy with the 17-point lead and not having that killer instinct," Robinson said. "I told them the championship teams that I've been a part of have taken care of business in the second half too. That's something that we're trying to build toward."
The Aggies were able to turn things around and regain control. The Aggies put a stop to the threat as sophomore Adriana Nazario, in her first game back after suffering a concussion at Florida A&M on Jan. 14, made a 3-point play to give the Aggies a 46-39 lead. From there, the A&T upperclassmen went to work to rebuild the lead. Four minutes later, a layup by Berry gave the Aggies a 59-44 lead with 11:35 to play.
King made it an 18-point game at 75-57 with 4:48 remaining as the Aggies cruised from there.
Despite the lopsided win, the Aggies gave up their highest second-half point total of the season. Morgan State's 73 points was third most points a foe has scored against A&T this season. A&T shot 52 percent from the floor to mark the second time they've shot 50 percent or better this season.
"I said from day one I think we have a lot of talent and there is no reason to try and run a set just for one player," Robinson said. "In the long run you don't want people to have the game plan just for one person, but to have a game plan for everybody."
The Aggies took a 6-4 lead with 16:10 left in the first half on a layup by freshman Eboni Ross. They never trailed again. Senior Bianca Jarrett, who recorded a team-best 21 points for Morgan State, made a 3-pointer as the shot clock had a second left to cut the A&T lead to 10-8. The Aggies responded by going on a 9-0 run to open up the game. The Bears worked to get back in to the game, and made a quick run. Consecutive pointers by Southerland made it a 28-18 game with 2:36 left, but Calvin scored the next seven points by the Aggies to give them a healthy cushion. Sophomore Jasmine Parker finished off the half with a putback after the offensive rebound in the scramble under the basket, giving A&T a 37-20 lead.
The Aggies will host Coppin State on Monday at 6 p.m. in Corbett Sports Center and will look to extend their winning streak.