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N.C. A&T Gets Upset Win Over NCCU

Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information
          Release: 03/02/2017
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Redshirt junior Sam Hunt starts the N.C. A&T celebration after his 20-point night helped the Aggies defeat arch-rival NCCU 68-63. Photo by Charles E. Watkins
Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information

GREENSBORO (March 2, 2017) – A thank you must go out to Dan Le Batard after the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team won its first Division I and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game of the season, 68-63, over North Carolina Central Thursday night at Corbett Sports Center.

The popular nationally-syndicated sports radio host jokingly wondered out loud Tuesday on his show if you put 3-time NBA champion LeBron James on the then 2-28 North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team, could the Aggies win the NCAA national championship. He and his cohosts then proceeded to belittle the Aggies for 2 ½ minutes.

With The King not available Thursday, the Aggies (3-28, 1-15 MEAC) used Sam Hunt’s 20 points and Eliel Gonzalez’s 19 points to beat not only their arch-rivals, but the No. 1 team in the MEAC. After the win the Aggie players were heard chanting: “We don’t need LeBron. We don’t need LeBron. We don’t need LeBron.”

“Of course they heard it,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner. “These are young people who are all over the internet. They hear as soon as it happens. I don’t know if it motivated them. I can tell you this, if it were me as a player, it would have motivated me.”

N.C. A&T did look like a motivated team. The Aggies looked exceptionally motivated on the defensive end where they held the Eagles to 6-for-30 shooting in the second half. Defense made all the difference in the upset win. Unlike other games at home recently where the Aggies have fallen behind by 20-plus points. While the Eagles (22-8, 13-3 MEAC) did lead most of the night, their lead never got above six.

With the Eagles leading 59-53 with 5:10 remaining, the Aggies began the process of taking over the game. Davaris McGowens, who secured his seventh double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds, hit back-to-back layups to cut the Eagles lead to two. Gonzalez then pulled up for a 15-footer to tie the game at 59 with 3:42 to play. After a Patrick Cole turnover gave the Aggies the ball back, Hunt leaned into a 3-pointer that caused Cole to foul him. Hunt hit all three free throws to give the Aggies a 62-59 lead.

Hunt and Gonzalez then put the game away. Hunt hit a tough layup with Eagles draped all to give the Aggies a five-point advantage. Del’vin Dickerson made Aggies fans nervous as he hit a 3-pointer 1:35 remaining to cut the Aggies lead to two. But Gonzalez went down the middle of the lane to score to increase the lead to 66-62 with 1:07 to play. He then went baseline and connected on a reverse layup to put the Aggies ahead 68-63 with 17 seconds to play.

“I don't want to put the focus on me tonight, or what I've been through,” said Joyner. “I'm happy for my guys. To stay together, to keep playing in close games when people have stopped believing in you, even just getting out of the bed in the morning when you haven't won a conference game, it's not easy.

But these guys showed up to the gym every day, they did their sprints, they dove on the floor for loose balls in practice and that's not easy when you're losing. Tonight, they finally got rewarded.”

A part of that reward was seeing the Aggie students rush the floor to celebrate what is the biggest upset win of the 150-game series. LeBron would be proud.

N.C. A&T will begin play in the 2017 MEAC Basketball Championship Tournament at the Norfolk Scope Arena on Monday. The Aggies, the 12th seed, open with fifth-seeded Maryland Eastern Shore at 5 p.m. The Hawks swept the Aggies this season, winning in Greensboro 99-88 on Jan. 9. The Hawks won 106-95 in triple overtime in Princess Anne, Md., on Feb. 20.

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