ASHEVILLE – The North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team got off to its best start in school history by getting the ball as close to the basket as it could and scoring. The Aggies bludgeoned UNC Asheville with layup after layup after layup in an 83-57 win at Kimmel Arena Tuesday night.
As a result, the Aggies are 7-1, they have won seven straight and they surpassed the 2007-08 Aggies for best start in school history. The Aggies placed five players in double figures led by Tracy King’s 15 points, six assists and four steals on 6-for-8 shooting. Christina Carter added 14 points and five assists, while Debbie Smith came off the bench to score 14 on 6-for-12 shooting.
Most of A&T’s layups came on transition baskets after beating the Bulldogs’ pressure. The Aggies shot 64 percent from the floor and dished out 19 assists because they were playing in the open floor most of the night. But even in the half court, the Aggies used an effective pick-and-roll game to get in the paint where they outscored the Bulldogs 42-18. And just to add insult to injury, the Aggies hit 5 of 6 from 3-point range.
It was not a bad showing for a team that spent 10 days away from competition.
“We know from a percentage standpoint we’re not shooting the (3-pointer) great, so we need those points in the paint,” said second-year A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson. “Points in the paint to us are layups, getting the ball in the post and obviously getting to the free throw line.”
Layups were not coming easy early in the game for A&T. Robinson and his staff knew UNC Asheville had a reputation for getting off to good starts, and the Bulldogs (4-6) did not disappoint. The Bulldogs only held the lead for 51 seconds on Tuesday, but they were within four, 29-25, with four minutes remaining in the half. Four consecutive A&T free throws and a fastbreak layup by Smith gave the Aggies a 10-point advantage.
UNCA’s Shonese Jones then drove the lane and dished out to Tianna Knuckles for a 3-pointer to cut A&T’s lead to 35-28. King quickly answered with a three from the top of the key to put A&T back up by 10. Smith closed the half with a layup to give the Aggies a 40-29 advantage at the half.
“We knew we were going to get their best punch in the first half,” said Robinson. “We just needed to survive it. We did, so we were able to stretch out the lead at the end of the half.”
A&T’s lead continued to grow in the second half. Twenty-one of A&T’s first 23 points of the second half were scored either in the paint or at the free throw line. Eight of those points came on transition layups.
“I didn’t think it was easy,” said Robinson. “We had 26 turnovers. I told them we’ll attest the turnovers and our defensive inefficiencies to the long layoff. It was good to get a win, and it was good to keep the streak going.”
Robinson hopes he and his team can learn from last season’s winning streaks. The Aggies had winning streaks of six and seven during the 2012-13 season. The seven-game streak was met with two straight losses – one in the MEAC tournament semifinals and the other in the WNIT – to close the season. Therefore, Robinson is willing to use milestones to keep his motivated.
“From my lessons as a head coach last year, I think we won six games in a row and we got a little beside ourselves,” he said. “We forgot how we got there – defending and working hard. I try to tell them things like (best start in school history) to get them up and ready to go.”
UNCA was led by Knuckles’ 15 points. Aprill McRae had 11 points and six rebounds for A&T, while Adriana Nazario hit all six of her free throws to score 13. The Aggies return to action Saturday when they travel to Washington, D.C., to face George Washington at noon.