SAVANNAH-It was a hard fought battle on Monday night at Tiger Arena as the North Carolina A&T men's basketball team worked to move up in the MEAC standings against Savannah State. But the Aggies had trouble landing shots, as they fell to the Tigers, 62-50.
The Tigers (20-10, 13-2) proclaimed their MEAC regular season title with the victory against the Aggies (12-18, 7-8) on Monday.
"It was a very competitive game. My starters just could not get the ball into the basket," he added. "It's very difficult to win on the road when you don't make shots," said head coach Jerry Eaves. "We played great defense, you know. They shot 37 percent and 20 percent from the 3. We played great D. We just didn't make shots. Eight-for-16 from the free throw line really hurt us. We did a great job of keeping them off the line-they went 5-for-8. But we just didn't get shots to land."
Reserve guard Jared Williams led the team with 12 points, and had two rebounds in the game, and went 4-for-4 from the floor. Junior DaMetrius Upchurch had 10 points and a team-high six rebounds. He was the only starter to get more than one field goal in the contest.
"He didn't miss a shot. He went 3-for-3 from the 3," Eaves said of senior Williams. "He's been shooting the lights out since Nic [Simpson]'s gone down. He's been a pleasant, pleasant surprise off the bench, with the way he's shooting. He's been a great rebounder. He had two defensive rebounds, which is great. Jeremy Underwood had four. So my guards off the bench did a great job of going after the ball for us. It was just a hard fought game."
The Aggies were down 42-28 at the half, and were down by 20 as late as the 9:16 mark in the second half when the score was 56-36. But then, the Aggies went on a 9-0 run powered by a five points from Williams, and layups by Anthony Estes and R.J. Buck. After a pair of Tigers baskets, the Aggies went on another 5-0 run to close out the game, on a jumper by Austin Witter and a three-pointer by senior Marc Hill.
"They were playing for the championship and we were playing to try to move up in the standings. We just couldn't get the ball to go in the basket," said Eaves. The Tigers were led by Deric Rudolph, who posted 15 points for the Tigers on 5-for-20 shooting. Preston Blackman added 14 poitns for Savannah State.
The Aggies struggles were a result of missing close shots. They finished the game 18-for-51 from the floor and 8-for-16 from the line.
The Aggies return home for their final game of the regular season. They will take on Norfolk State at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 1. The Aggies will honor seniors Nic Simpson, Marc Hill and Jared Williams in a pre-game ceremony. But the Aggies are looking to wrap-up the regular season on a high note in preparation for the MEAC Tournament.
"It's very, very competitive. People are playing for position. We're 4-4 on the road. We'd like to end up 4-4 at home. This was just a hard fought war, a very, very physical game. I've been very proud with how we've played on the road, but we need to close out the season with a home win going into the conference tournament."