DURHAM (January 26, 2019) – It wasn’t the prettiest Aggie-Eagle that has ever been played but they don’t have to be when you’re collecting road wins in conference play.
The North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team got another strong performance off the bench from Ronald Jackson and they held N.C. Central to 3-for-22 shooting from 3-point range to come away with a 51-48 win over the Eagles at McDougald-McLendon Arena Saturday evening. It is NCCU's lowest output in the rivalry since 2003 when the Eagles scored 42 points.
N.C. A&T remained undefeated in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) play at 6-0 and improved to 11-9 overall. It is their best start in conference play since the 1987-88 season. The Aggies have already completed half their road games in the conference already this season and they stand 4-0 in those games. Their seven-game winning streak is the longest since the Aggies won eight straight during the 2008-09 season.
After a 21-point night against Morgan State and a 23-point outing against Coppin State, Jackson scored in double figures again off the bench with 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the floor. He was also 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 4-for-4 from the line and he added six rebounds to his totals.
“Guys are really starting to believe,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner who is 5-2 against NCCU in his career. “We didn’t play well tonight and we still held a very good team to under 50 points in their gym. These guys are really starting to believe we’re going to win no matter what which drives me crazy because there is a way to play and there is a way not to play. We made some bonehead mistakes down the stretch that could have really cost us. Thank goodness we weathered the storm and got the ‘W.”’
N.C. A&T took a 47-41 lead on a fadeaway jumper from the baseline by junior Qua Copeland with 3:02 remaining in the game. The Eagles (9-11, 4-2 MEAC) then went inside to their first-team All-MEAC center Raasean Davis and scored to cut the lead to four. A shot clock violation gave the Eagles the ball back and they capitalized again as Davis scored on a tip-in to cut the Aggies lead to 47-45 with 1:05 remaining.
NCCU’s opportunity to tie or take the lead was taken away when sophomore Kam Langley rebounded a miss from Copeland to give the Aggies an opportunity to run more clock. Jackson eventually went to the line and hit both free throws to give the Aggies a four-point advantage with 25 seconds remaining. The Eagles got an opportunity to score points with the clock stopped, but Larry McKnight, Jr., made only one of two free throws cutting the Aggies lead to 49-46.
After the Eagles fouled Copeland, Copeland made two more free throws to put N.C. A&T ahead by five. Randy Miller kept the Eagles hopes alive with another score in the lane. But after graduate guard Aaren Edmead missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Eagles last long-distance attempt wasn’t close as the remained a half-game behind Norfolk State for first place in the MEAC.
The Aggies won despite 11 of their 14 turnovers occurring in the second half. The Aggies did hold NCCU to 29 percent shooting in the second half.
“Offensively, I thought we were starting to turn the corner in the first half but somehow we got stuck in the mud in the second half,” said Joyner. “But something we have always hung our hat on from day one is defense. Our defense came up huge tonight.”
N.C. A&T did jump out to a 7-0 lead in the first half before NCCU gathered themselves. NCCU’s Jibri Blount tied the game for the fourth time in the first half with a breakaway dunk to make it 26-26 with three minutes remaining. But a Jackson three followed by a Jackson jumper at the first-half buzzer gave the Aggies a 31-26 halftime lead.
“Ronald Jackson is the epitome of hard work,” said Joyner. “He gives everything he has at practice and now he is starting to come around. I knew he was a good player when we signed him. It just took him a while to get acclimated to Division I basketball. He’s playing well when it matters most – conference play.”
N.C. A&T returns to conference play next weekend when they travel to Florida to face Florida A&M on Saturday (Feb. 2) and Bethune-Cookman on Monday (Feb. 4).