GREENSBORO - How did North Carolina A&T women's basketball coach Tarrell Robinson earn his first career win?
"Amber Calvin finally woke up," Robinson simply stated.
The flashy combo guard out of Fayetteville, N.C., came off the bench to score 19 points and dish out five assists on 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range to lead the Aggies to a 66-57 win over Iona at Corbett Sports Center on Friday. Calvin's performance helped the Aggies avenge a 16-point loss to the Gaels in New Rochelle, N.Y., last season.
Calvin came into the game a combined 1-for-12 from the floor in the Aggies first two games. But with the Aggies trailing 20-10 with nine minutes remaining in the first half, Calvin came in as a playmaker and eventually morphed into a scorer. Calvin's assist to Nikia Gorham led to a 3-point play, and minutes later her first 3-pointer of the game pulled the Aggies to within two at 20-18.
Iona had trouble finding Calvin in its zone most of the night. Her 11-point, four-assist first half helped the Aggies go into the locker room with a 33-30 halftime lead. She continued to find open spots in the second half. Calvin's 3-pointer from the corner gave the Aggies a 51-44 advantage. It also ignited a 13-0 that led to a 61-44 A&T advantage with less than eight minutes to play. Juniors Tracy King and DeAndra Davis led the way during the spurt as they scored five points apiece.
"Amber struggled in our first two scrimmages and in our first two games," said Robinson. "But I keep playing her because she has proven over the years that eventually her shots will fall like they did today. She played huge for us, and it really made a difference in this game."
Robinson said he is comfortable with his preseason All-MEAC guard coming off the bench. Calvin has accepted her role, according to the first-year coach, something he greatly appreciates.
"The young lady (Adriana Nazario) that plays in front of her, right now, is a better defender," said Robinson. "I told my team I want to start my five best defensive players. Today shows why I think it will work."
The Aggies (1-2) also had their best rebounders on the floor. A&T outrebounded the Gaels 29-18 in the second half to pull away. The Aggies 13 second-half offensive rebounds led to a 12-2 second chance points advantage for A&T.
"Coming into the game, we definitely felt like we had the size advantage, so we wanted to kill them on the boards," said Robinson. "We had 32 points in the paint, so I definitely think that made a difference in the game."
The Gaels (2-1) did close the Aggies lead to seven, 62-55, on a Cassidee Ranger 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining. But after a 30-second timeout, A&T point guard Jessica Lyons found a wide open Nikia Gorham underneath the basket for a game-clinching layup.
King added 11 points and seven rebounds for A&T. The Gaels were led by Damika Martinez's 20 points and nine rebounds.
Robinson will go for win No. 2 on Tuesday when the Aggies play at Siena at 11 a.m. Robison did have a reaction to win No. 1.
"There is still work to be done," he said. "I want my first championship."