EAST GREENSBORO (November 29, 2018) – Playing on the road three weeks straight weeks against tough competition which included an ACC and Big 10 opponent do not seem to be having negative ramifications on the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team.
A week after earning their first win of the season, a road
“You never know what losing does to a team,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner who saw his team improve to 2-5 on the season. “As a coach, I knew we were playing a difficult schedule, but you never know how they are going to react to playing the teams we had to play on the road. But they have never dropped their heads, they continued to come to practice with the right mindset and I commend them for the way they have played over the last two games.”
Thursday did mark the Aggies final game played in November. Considering five of their first seven games were on the road this month, they did not come out too bad. With November out of the way, the early part of December has the potential to favor the Aggies. They play Presbyterian 4 p.m., Saturday, December 1 at Corbett Sports Center before returning home a week later to play Greensboro College at 4 p.m.
“It’s always nice to come back home. You’ve got to protect home. I’m still haunting about giving away a home win at the free throw line,” said Joyner, referring to the Aggies home loss to UNC Greensboro on Nov. 6. “But these next two home games are huge for us. We have to protect home.”
Protecting home did not appear to be a problem on Thursday. The Aggies led from start to finish as they established dominance in the paint early by getting the ball to graduate center Ibrahim Sylla. Sylla finished with a season-high 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting. He also had seven rebounds.
Sylla helped the Aggies layup and dunk their way to a 9-0 lead as scored six of the Aggies first nine points no more than three feet away from the basket. The Aggies grew their lead from there. A Ronald Jackson 3-pointer gave the Aggies a 19-5 lead and a D’Andre Johnson three put the Aggies ahead 25-10 with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
CCSU (4-4) did cut into that lead thanks to
“We talked about coming out with intensity,” said Joyner. “For 15 of the first 20 minutes, we brought intensity. We were the aggressors. Next thing you know they’re right back in the game. We have to get used to being in those type situations where we understand what it means to be playing with a lead. It’s all about learning at this point in the season.”
CCSU kept coming at the Aggies. Jamir Coleman cut the Aggies lead down to 39-35 3 ½ minutes into the second half. But the Aggies went back inside to Sylla and things seemed to be okay again. Sylla scored to give the Aggies a six-point lead. His layup ignited a 14-2 run that he capped with a dunk off of a bounce pass from sophomore Kameron Langley to give the Aggies a 53-37 lead with 13:34 remaining in the game.
“He still has to play under control. Sometimes he gets in a hurry, but it’s great to have him,” said Joyner. “We can throw the ball inside and as long as he’s under control and within himself, he is a great asset to the program.”
The closest the Blue Devils were able to get after Sylla’s dunk was 10, 62-52. But junior Qua Copeland halted any hopes of a rally as he spotted up and swished a three to push the lead to 13 with five minutes to play.
Copeland finished with 16 on 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point range. Milik Gantz added 11 points and five steals, Langley finished with a game-high eight assists.
“Playing the competition we played in November can only get your program better,” said Joyner. “You can still win losing those kinds of games because your team can gain confidence from knowing they can play tough against anybody.”