NORFOLK, Va. (March 7, 2018) – North Carolina A&T opened the 2018 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament with a dominating 54-38 win in the quarterfinals against the ninth-seeded South Carolina State Bulldogs in Scope Arena Wednesday afternoon.
Sophomore Alexus Lessears notched her seventh double-double of the season and the 10th of her career with 14 points with 12 rebounds. She tied a career high with five blocks. Senior Kala Green made all six of her free throws leading to her 13-point outing off the bench.
N.C. A&T (21-8) displayed great defensive pressure against the Bulldogs (12-18) as the Bulldogs had the lowest point production of any Aggie opponent this season. S.C. State was held to 12 field goals and shot 21 percent from the field a month after shooting 28.4 percent from the field against N.C. A&T in Orangeburg, S.C.
“We are happy to be back in familiar territory playing on Friday,” said N.C. A&T coach Tarrell Robinson, who has reached the semifinals in each of his six seasons at N.C. A&T. “All season these young women have fought adversity and have found a way to overcome obstacles and this is another example of that. I am proud of my team.”
The Aggies held the Bulldogs to one made field goal in the first quarter and jumped out to a 7-0 lead. SCSU’s 10 turnovers and sophomore Cinia McCray’s five points lifted the Aggies to a 14-2 advantage after Period 1. The early momentum carried into the second quarter with the Aggies outscoring the Bulldogs 13-4. After SCSU’s free throw with 5:40 remaining in the second period, N.C. A&T closed the quarter on a 9-0 run, going into halftime with a 21-point lead.
Nineteen first-half turnovers were forced by their defense and the Bulldogs were limited to only two made field goals. SCSU went 2-for-23 from the field while the Aggies shot 36 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs came out of halftime with a strong third period outscoring the Aggies 18-12. SCSU’s Bryeasha Blair scored 10 points in the first six minutes to cut the deficit to 14, 33-19 with 4:52 to play. But Green’s 3-pointer ended SCSU’s 9-0 run. Green and McCray each scored four points in the period keeping the Aggies on top 39-24 going into the fourth quarter.
Lessears made sure the Bulldogs were put away with a seven-point fourth quarter. She was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and anchored the defense with two blocks. After two free throws by Green with 5:22 left to play the Aggies had their largest lead of the game, 50-26.
“Our young women take pride in defending and they take pride in knowing what our opponents are trying to do to score against us and then they take pride in taking them out of it,” said Robinson. “It is them having the determination to understand scouts and to understand what we do defensively.”
N.C. A&T advances to the MEAC semifinals on Friday at noon. The Aggies will face the winner of Thursday’s matchup between No. 12 Florida A&M and No. 13 Savannah State.
“We want to win another championship and they are ready to do that,” said Robinson. “We will find out who we play and watch film of today’s game and try to mentally fix things and talk about things that we need to do better going into our next game. We will find out who our opponent is and prepare for them.”