TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Costly turnovers and missed free throws caused the North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team to fall 55-51 to Florida A&M at the Al Lawson Center, Monday evening.
The Aggies (11-3 overall) dropped to 1-1 in the MEAC .The Rattlers (8-9, 2-2) held the Aggies to their fewest points of the season. Florida A&M’s defense recorded 17 steals and caused the Aggies to commit 26 turnovers.
“Free throws and not taking care of the ball really hurt us,” head coach Tarrell Robinson said. “I don’t think we ever got settled in either half. Because of foul trouble I had to go with different combinations and we just didn’t execute. We have to learn from it and move on.”
Redshirt junior Debbie Smith led the Aggies in scoring for the second time this season with 16 points, tallying her third straight game scoring in double figures. She also grabbed five rebounds and was 5-for-12 from the field, hitting four of A&T’s six 3-pointers.
“Debbie is our sixth man,” Robinson said. “She comes off the bench and gives us a lift offensively and we needed that tonight.”
Smith’s last 3-pointer gave A&T its biggest lead over the Rattlers, 49-41 with 4:14 left in the game. A baseline jumper from Jasmine Grice, one of the MEAC’s top scorers, paired with a layup and free throw from Taneka Rubin cut the Aggies lead to 49-46 with three minutes remaining.
After a series of turnovers and missed shots from both teams, the Aggies called a timeout to regroup at the 1:17 mark. Just two seconds later Eboni Ross found her way to the hole for a basket to give A&T a five-point edge.
Rubin responded by scoring the next five points with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to tie the game at 51 with 48 seconds remaining. An Aggie turnover on their next possession and a foul sent Jasmine Grice to the line where she knocked down both free throws.
Ariel Bursey had a chance to tie the game again with 11 seconds remaining, but she was unable to connect on either foul shot. The Aggies grabbed the rebound on the missed free throw but another turnover caused them to foul Kimberly Sparkman with six seconds to play. Sparkman nailed both shots to put the game away.
The first half featured several ties as the Rattlers found their offensive spark in Grice who recorded 17 of her 24 points in the first half. The Aggies were leading 29-27 with 2:08 in the half. Each team went quiet on offense until Grice made a pair of free throws with 32 seconds left to tie the game at 29 heading into halftime.
Grice finished with eight steals and three assists. Rubin recorded 15 points and three steals. The Aggies outrebounded the Rattlers 43-25 but shot 47.4 percent from the line while Florida A&M was 15-for-17 (88.2 percent) at the line.
The Aggies will host Delaware State on Monday, January 20 in a MEAC game beginning at 4 p.m. at Corbett Sports Center.