WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
The Game: No. 5 North Carolina A&T (15-15) vs. No. 4 Coppin State (19-11)
When: Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Lawrence Joel Coliseum (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
WINSTON-SALEM - There is a rebounding battle going on within the North Carolina A&T women's basketball team. After A&T's 66-53 win over Morgan State in the 2012 MEAC Basketball Tournament on Monday, Junior JaQuayla Berry was basking in the glow of having grabbed 16 rebounds.
Yes, the total helped the Aggies advance to play Coppin State in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m., Thursday at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. But the total also gave her bragging rights over teammate Tiffanie Adair. Adair, who has averaged close to 10 rebounds per game in her last 11 games, grabbed seven rebounds in the win over Morgan State.
"The only reason you beat is because I got into foul trouble," said Adair, who had to leave the game early in the second half after picking up her third foul.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Berry replied. "We'll see what happens Thursday."
Berry's main concern is that she can be consistent. If a duel with Adair helps, she is all for it.
"We've got to keep the competition going," said Berry. "I think it motivates us to play hard. When you make it a game and make it fun or a challenge, it's not work. It makes it easier. It helps people get it done."
Previous to Monday's game, Berry played just 15 minutes and grabbed only four rebounds. On Feb. 27 against Savannah State, she was credited with 13 rebounds. At Florida A&M on Feb. 6, however, Berry was 3-for-11 from the field and had 10 points and five rebounds.
Aggies head coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs is not ashamed to say she demands a lot out of Berry because she is so talented. Berry has been an all-rookie, first-team and second-team All-MEAC selection since arriving in Greensboro from Coffee, Ga., in 2009. Despite the accolades, Bibbs has challenged her talented wing player on consistency before.
After scoring only six points in a loss at Hampton last season, Bibbs told Berry she would play her 40 minutes. If she didn't produce, the veteran coach would diminish her minutes significantly. How did Berry respond?
She scored 31 points and recorded 10 steals in a win over N.C. Central. Berry didn't stop there. She scored in double figures in the Aggies final 11 games of the season, finished third in the nation in steals and was named first-team all-conference.
"JaQuayla is the one I stay on because she can do so much for us," said Bibbs after the Aggies' win on Monday. "She is a great rebounder. You just have to make sure you get her going. Sometimes to get her going, you've got to sit her down. And we know she doesn't like it when we sit her down. When she gets back in, you can usually see that dominance in her both offensively and defensively."
Berry doesn't shy away from her responsibility as a team leader. She knows if the Aggies want to win another championship, she must have a 14-point, 16-rebound performances like she did Monday.
"It is said that I have an on-and-off switch," said Berry. "When I want to turn it on and get rebounds, I can. If I don't want to do it then we are in trouble. I've got to get it done.
She is not going to settle for less," Berry said about Bibbs' expectations. "If I'm not getting it done, she is not going to let up. She is going to stay on me until I get it done."
This is where the rebounding battle with Adair comes in.
"When you don't want someone to outwork you, you'll get it done," said Berry with a smile.
A&T lost to Coppin State 85-63 on Jan. 23 in Baltimore. Berry had 15 points and nine rebounds in 34 minutes of action. She was 4-for-15 from the floor. Another big problem for the Aggies the last time was Jeanine Manley, who came off the bench and scored 38 points on 14-for-18 shooting.
"It's got to be a team effort," said Berry. "Everyone has to rebound. I think everyone is determined. The way they beat us last time left a sour taste in our mouths."