DURHAM – Behind redshirt sophomore Aprill McRae’s career-high 20 points, the North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team defeated rival N.C. Central, 59-47 at a packed McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium on Wednesday evening.
Commendable defense and a balanced attack helped the Aggies improve to 13-3 overall and 3-1 in the MEAC. The Eagles fell to 7-10 and 2-2 in the conference. A&T extended their win streak over NCCU as Wednesday marked its eighth straight win over the Eagles.
"It's great to get another win against one of our biggest rivals," head coach Tarrell Robinson said. "We put together a great defensive effort. Aprill came out and gave us everything she had from the beginning to the end of the game. It was also good to have our leader, Tracy King back. She had a usual all-around game."
McRae fueled A&T’s offense and was unstoppable in the paint, shooting 7-of-9 from the field. She was 6 of 7 at the line and defensively she grabbed six rebounds and added two blocks. While McRae got the offense going, senior forward Tracy King led the defense with a season-high 12 rebounds and four steals. She also contributed eight points and four assists.
“It felt great to play back near my hometown,” McRae said. “I enjoyed the playing atmosphere. Their crowd was hype and it really got me going. I’m proud of all my teammates, especially Tracy on the defensive end. She played really well tonight. We just have to keep playing together as a team and we will continue to do well.”
After King tied the game at 6 with 15:06 in the first half, the Aggies went on a 14-2 run which ended on a fastbreak layup from Eboni Ross at the 9:36 mark, pushing them to a 20-8 lead. The Aggies continued to make great defensive stops and found holes in NCCU’s offense which allowed A&T to take a comfortable 38-23 lead at halftime.
A&T kept its double-digit lead for most of the second half but NCCU found its groove in Jessica Freeman who scored 10 points in the second half. But a layup from Raquel Davis with 4:27 left cut A&T’s edge to 53-44.
On the Aggies next possession, a turnover allowed the Eagles to score a basket, slicing the score to 53-46 with 4:10 remaining. A&T regrouped after a timeout and McRae scored four straight points to extend the Aggies advantage to 57-46 with less than two minutes in the game. NCCU wasn’t able to respond in the final minutes as A&T secured the win.
The Aggies outscored the Eagles in the paint 34-16 and scored 20 points off 19 NCCU turnovers. Ariel Bursey finished with eight points, followed by Ross with seven.
Freeman led the Eagles with 19 points and Khyra Conerly added 13. Tasha Dixon led NCCU on the glass with seven rebounds and finished with four assists.
A&T will host Morgan State on Saturday, Jan. 25 for a MEAC matchup starting at 4 p.m.