TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - After a disappointing loss at Bethune-Cookman on Saturday, the North Carolina A&T women's basketball team was looking to make a statement against Florida A&M on Monday night at the Al Lawson Center.
The Aggies did just that, handing the Rattlers their first conference loss of the season with a 73-52 victory. The Aggies (10-6, 2-1) shot a season-best 52 percent ,including 71 percent shooting in the second half.
"This is bounce-back Monday. So far this year, we've done a good job with dealing with adversity, both individually and as a team," said A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson. "When we have a loss, we do a good job of responding the next game, and this was pretty much the same thing."
In addition to showing their mental mettle, the Aggies got a strong effort from all of their players, including double-doubles from senior JaQuayla Berry (19 points, 11 rebounds) and junior Tracy King (14 points, 11 rebounds) and a season-high 17 points from redshirt freshman Eboni Ross. Ross has started in the last two games, replacing injured senior Nikia Gorham at center.
"Eboni Ross really grew up today," Robinson said. "Eboni Ross gave us a solid inside presence. I think that was the biggest scoring output inside the paint this year. JaQuayla Berry and Tracy King stepped up, Jessica Lyons stepped up, Amber Calvin took over the point guard position. It was an all-around team effort. Everybody played and everybody contributed."
Berry and King's performance were the first double-doubles of the season for the Aggies, and also marked the first time since A&T's victory over N.C. Central on Feb. 18, 2012 that two players have recorded double-figure rebounds in a game.
The Aggies dominated the Rattlers on the glass and in the paint in Monday's contest, which were two key areas that contributed to their loss in Daytona Beach. The Aggies also refocused on defense, answering Robinson's call to keep a tight leash on the FAMU scorers early.
"I challenged them-we gave up 68 points to Bethune, 33 in the first half-and I told them that isn't our style of basketball, our brand of basketball," he said. "We did a good job of holding them to 17 in the first half."
The Aggies took a 12-5 lead in the first five minutes and never trailed. A&T lost starting point guard Adriana Nazario to injury when she collided under the basket with FAMU's Jasmine Grice on what was called a blocking foul on Nazario.
Calvin replaced Nazario at the point position, and helped the Aggies take a commanding lead. A shot from beyond the arc by Calvin gave the Aggies the 32-17 lead that they took into the half. In addition to well-rounded scoring, A&T forced 10 first-half turnovers and held the Rattlers to 7-for-25 shooting.
The Rattlers (5-11, 2-1) worked to overcome the deficit in the second half. Grice had 18 second-half points, and junior Kimberly Sparkman contributed 15 of her 18 points in the second 20 minutes, going 5-for-8 from 3-point range. But their efforts weren't enough as the Aggies enjoyed a double-digit cushion for most of the second half.
FAMU cut the lead to nine on a tip-in by Patrice Collie with 17:44 left in the game, but that was as close as the Rattlers got the rest of the way. The Aggies went on a 9-0 run to take a 43-25 lead and went ahead by 20 points on a layup by King with 12:22 remaining. Grice led the Rattlers with 28 points.
"It was a good win. Definitely wanted to win both, but we'll be satisfied with the split and just move on to our next opponent," Robinson said.
The Aggies will host Howard (8-7, 3-1) at 2 p.m., on Saturday in Corbett Sports Center.