Aggies Hold Off Del State's Upset Bid
GREENSBORO (February 5, 2018) – Everything North Carolina A&T does at this point in the season is geared toward being prepared to win the 2018 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Basketball tournament championship in March.
In preparation, the Aggies have won by scoring 90-plus points, by rallying from behind and on Monday, they won an ugly one. The Aggies overcame a game where they turned the ball over 17 times and shot 36.7 percent from the floor to beat Delaware State 54-51 at Corbett Sports Center. It was the Aggies 11th straight win at home as they improved to 10-0 at home this season. Freshman Kameron Langley and junior Femi Olujobi scored 11 points apiece as Langley was 4-for-5 from the field and Olujobi was 5-for-8. Junior Aaren Edmead finished with eight points and five assists.
The Aggies (15-9, 8-1 MEAC) moved into a first-place tie in the conference because Savannah State did not play on Monday.
With 1.5 seconds remaining, Langley hit two free throws to give N.C. A&T a 54-51 lead. Kavon Waller’s desperation three banged off the backboard to give the Aggies another win.
“It’s great to win the way we won tonight because we’re going to have to figure out a way to win in a tournament format much like we did tonight,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner. “Shots don’t fall every night but you have to grind it out to advance. Thank God we got it done.”
Things were going N.C. A&T’s way 6 ½ minutes into the second half. Langley slipped underneath along the baseline and took a pass from Edmead and scored to give the Aggies a 43-32 lead. Del State (2-23, 0-10 MEAC) decided to play zone to slow down the Aggies offense. That’s when it turned ugly for the Aggies. Only three field goals were made by the Aggies over the final 13 minutes of the game, but they were timely makes.
Del State cut the lead to 43-39 on a turnaround jumper in the middle of the paint with 12 minutes remaining. But two free throws from Edmead and a tip-in from fifth-year forward Denzel Keyes helped the Aggies keep their distance at 47-39 with 9:18 to play. Marquis Collins scored on a jump shot to cut the Aggies lead to six, but Langley found Olujobi underneath for two more points to give the Aggies a 49-41 advantage.
The Hornets scored the next six points as Jonathan Walker hit a three, Lewis scored in the post again and Artem Tavakalyan hit a free throw to make it a 49-47 game with 4:33 to play. It prompted the biggest shot of the game as graduate guard Devonte Boykins found himself open in the corner. Edmead located the open Boykins and Boykins responded by knocking down a 3-pointer to give the Aggies a 52-47 lead with a little less than four minutes remaining in the game.
“When you’re going through a tough season like they are, you have to give credit to their kids for battling until the last second with several opportunities to tie it,” said Joyner. “You have to be proud of their kids considering that was us last year.”
Boykins shot stood up but not without a scare. Pinkey Wiley took advantage of a Langley slipping and falling and turning the ball over as Wiley scored on a layup to cut the lead to three. Walker cut the lead to 52-51 with 1:05 to play before Edmead turned the ball over with 35 seconds remaining to give Del State a chance to take the lead. In fact, the Hornets had three chances to take the lead but missed on all three opportunities as the ball eventually landed in the arms of Keyes, leading to Langley’s free throws.
Walker and Lewis had 12 points apiece to lead the Hornets. Lewis also had 10 rebounds. N.C. A&T started an unusual lineup on Monday with senior guard Austin Williams, senior guard Donte Watson, freshman center D’Andre Johnson, junior guard Kwei Lartey and Keyes getting the start. Watson played for the first time in 12 games and Williams had not played in nine of his previous 10 games. The Aggies will now go on the road and begin a portion in the season that will have them play five of their final seven games away from Corbett.
It starts with a 4 p.m., Saturday game at S.C. State before the Aggies face Savannah State on the road Monday night at 8 p.m.
“We’re going to hit the reset button,” said Joyner. “We’re not a complete product yet. We’re close, but we’re not there yet, so we have to keep fighting. We could go from first to fourth, fifth or sixth depending on what everyone else does. I truly believe if we really grow up this week, get ready for a tough South Carolina State team and somehow go on the road and win, that will tell me a lot about where we are as a team.”