EAST GREENSBORO –North Carolina A&T endured its worst loss of the conference season at Florida A&M at the beginning of last month. The Aggies returned the favor Saturday evening at Corbett Sports Center.
After a 24-point loss in Tallahassee, the Aggies got the Rattlers in their gym and defeated them 63-42. The win solidified the No. 2 seed for the Aggies (17-12, 12-3 MEAC) going into the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship Basketball Tournament, March 11-16 in Norfolk, Va.
Norfolk State (18-11, 13-1 MEAC) clinched the No. 1 seed with their win over Coppin State Saturday. The Aggies still have a chance to share the conference’s regular-season title if they can win their regular-season finale against N.C. Central on Thursday and Norfolk State loses their last two regular-season games.
Even if the Aggies don’t get a piece of the conference regular-season crown, they have a first-round bye at the MEAC tournament have they have their first 12-win season in the conference since the 1991-92 season when they were 12-4 in the league.
N.C. A&T has won 16 straight against conference opponents at Corbett Sports Center.
“We talked redemption all week,” said N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner about facing the FAMU Rattlers. “We played awful down there. They beat us 63-39 down there, so all week we were preaching we have to redeem ourselves and that’s what these young men did.”
Senior Qua Copeland was the only Aggie in double figures with 14 points. Copeland was one of six players the Aggies honored before the game as a part of Senior Day. They did not honor fifth-year senior Amari Hamilton because he was honored last season. The other players honored were Milik Gantz, Terry Harris, Ibrahim Sylla, Nelson Nweke and Aaren Edmead.
An 8-0 run helped the Aggies establish their journey toward revenge as Hamilton capped the run with a 3-pointer to give the Aggies a 20-10 lead with 6:58 remaining in the first half. FAMU got to within seven, 24-17, on a dunk by 7-foot-1 Isaiah Martin with 3 ½ minutes remaining in the first half.
But junior Andre Jackson got the Aggies back on track as he stood beyond the 3-point arc for a second wide open. When no one came to guard him, he netted to three to put the Aggies ahead by double figures again. A runner in the lane by sophomore guard Kameron Langley gave the Aggies a 30-18 lead before Nassir Core scored on a layup at the buzzer for FAMU to send the Rattlers into the locker room down 30-20 at halftime.
The Aggies shot 58 percent in the first half on only 19 attempts.
“We had several possessions in the first half that we didn’t capitalize on,” said Joyner. “We had 11 turnovers at and that’s way too many. That means we didn’t even have a shot attempt on that possession.”
The Aggies turned the ball over only three times in the second half. The Rattlers (11-19, 8-7 MEAC) did get the lead under 10 in the second half on a Justin Ravenel 3-pointer that made it 34-25 3 ½ minutes into the half. The Aggies answered with a 6-0 run. The Rattlers never got the lead under 10 again. The Aggies led by as many as 24 in the second half.
The Aggies held the Ratters to 28 percent shooting. Martin led the Rattlers with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“I thought the team played well defensively,” said Joyner. “To hold Florida A&M to 42 points shows the team did a great job on the defensive end. We just need to get back to knocking down shots. Guys are still a little hesitant for some reason.”
The Aggies will close out the regular season against rival N.C. Central 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 6, at Corbett.