EAST GREENSBORO (January 21, 2019) – North Carolina A&T junior forward Ronald Jackson has never played on a team this versatile with this much potential to do something great late in the season. Therefore, he is happy to be doing his part to realize that potential.
Jackson had one of the best Saturday/Monday Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) homestands a player could hope for. On the Monday half of the homestand, Jackson came off the bench to score a season-high 23 points on 9-for-10 shooting. He also knocked down two 3-pointers and had six rebounds to go along with his totals. He did all of this in just 25 minutes of action.
It follows Jackson’s Saturday performance where he scored a then season-high 21 points and eight rebounds on 7-for-13 shooting. Before this past weekend, Jackson had only scored in double figures once.
“Honestly, I just want to do whatever it takes for us to win. I just want a ring on my finger,” said Jackson. “If that means getting 10 blocks or taking 10 charges, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Aggies (10-9, 5-0 MEAC) have now won six straight and sit in second place in the MEAC, a half-game behind Norfolk State (11-10, 6-0 MEAC). It is the Aggies longest winning streak since winning eight straight during the 2008-09 season.
“Five-and-oh is definitely an accomplishment, but when you talk about having 11 more conference games left in the regular season, that’s a lot of basketball.”
The basketball the Aggies played on Monday was pretty good. Senior Milik Gantz contributed 18 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. Sophomore Kam Langley also played a versatile game. He ended the night with nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Graduate center Ibrahim Sylla finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. The Aggies, who lead the conference in field goal shooting, shot 54.5 percent from the floor thanks to numerous dunks and layups.
“I was always taught that if the long shots aren’t falling, you don’t just continue to throw the long ball up,” said Joyner. “You try to get some easy baskets. We’ll take two as opposed to taking all those threes and not hitting and not connecting. You’ll shoot yourself out of a basketball game that way. You have to learn when you’re on and when you’re not.”
Early in the game, the Aggies used the ability of Gantz to explode to the basket to score the basketball. In the second half, it was the inside presence of Jackson and Sylla that did the harm to the Eagles (3-17, 3-3 MEAC). After Coppin’s Brendan Medley-Bacon scored inside to cut the Aggies lead to 51-43, the Aggies scored their next eight points on either dunks or layups.
When Gantz whipped a pass to Jackson for a fast break dunk, the Aggies had a 59-46 lead with 8:10 remaining in the game.
“For Ronald, it’s been a learning curve coming in from a junior college,” said Joyner. “It’s taken him some time to figure out our system. We run a ton of plays and depending on what junior college you come from sometimes determines how quickly you pick things up. It might just be a push the ball in transition, ball screen, go get dunks (junior college), but that’s not really how we play here. It’s taken him some time to adjust and after five conference games I think he’s starting to come around.”
N.C. A&T would need more from Jackson before Monday night was over. A 3-pointer from Lamar Morgan cut the Aggies lead to eight before Dejuan Clayton got into the lane to score to make it a 64-58 game with 4:32 remaining. But Jackson hit a baseline jumper to put the Aggies ahead by eight before he stepped out to net a three to give the Aggies a 69-58 lead with 3:37 to play. The closest the Eagles got the rest of the way was seven with only 38 seconds remaining.
“I’m really proud of these guys thus far in the conference play. They’ve found different ways to win,” said Joyner. “As a coach, it’s a luxury to know that you can have a guy who can come off the bench and give you 20 points. Ronald Jackson over the last two games has been phenomenal.”
It was Gantz who got going in the first half. He scored 14 of the Aggies first 16 points as N.C. A&T took a 16-9 lead over the first 10 minutes of the game. But hot 3-point shooting from Morgan got Coppin back into the game. Morgan’s deep three with 4:28 remaining in the first half cut the Aggies lead to 24-21. Morgan’s three with 1:57 remaining gave the Eagles a 32-29 lead. But Jackson scored the Aggies final five points of the half to give the Aggies a 34-32 halftime lead.
Morgan led the Eagles with 35 points on 8-for-14 shooting from three. The Aggies now head to Durham where archrival N.C. Central (9-10, 4-1 MEAC) awaits. Game time is 4 p.m.