Monday evening saw two teams take to the court in Greensboro, North Carolina who were expected by many to be in the top half of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) standings this season. It was the second game for each team in the December portion of conference play, and it provided each team with an opportunity to make a statement with a win.
The hometown North Carolina A&T Aggies started the season with 7 straight losses, but entered Monday riding a three-game winning streak. With a win over the Howard Bison in their last outing, the Aggies have seemingly turned things around in 2015-16, at least for the time being.
On the flip side, the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks have struggled this season after a strong showing a year ago. They entered Monday night on a mini two-game losing streak, and were coming off a loss to the North Carolina Central Eagles in their MEAC opener on Saturday. A win over the Aggies would be a big boost for their confidence moving forwards.
After the first half, the Aggies held a 17-point lead, and seemingly had the game in the bag. They withstood a ferocious rally from the Hawks in the dying minutes of the second half, and came away with the 80-74 victory in front of their home crowd.
The first half was all about North Carolina A&T, as they controlled the game from the outset. They stretched their lead to double-figures by the midway point of the opening half, and they were just getting started from there.
With the momentum on their side, the Aggies closed out the first half on a 14-6 run to build up even more momentum as they went into the break. After the opening 20 minutes, the Aggies looked to be in full control with a 42-25 lead over the Hawks.
As the case has been all season long, credit Maryland-Eastern Shore for never giving up and for continuing to fight when their backs were firmly against the wall. Even when the Aggies stretched their lead to 19 early in the second half, the Hawks kept chipping away.
With 1:01 to play in the contest, a three ball from Thomas Rivera brought the Hawks to within a single point, and gave them a shot to steal the victory.
From there, the Aggies went 5-of-6 from the free throw line in the last minute of the game to close out the win. The Hawks didn’t help their cause by missing two field goals and the front end of a one-and-one opportunity in the same time frame.
Despite their ferocious comeback attempt, the Hawks were unable to come all the way back, and the North Carolina A&T Aggies held on for the 80-74 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Despite the loss, several key players continued their resurgence for the Hawks as they move on in 2015-16. Dominique Elliott put together another strong performance in the paint, recording a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds in the loss. Devin Martin scored a team-high 14 points, while Bakari Copeland bounced back after a down-game against the Eagles to put in 11 points off the bench.
As for the Aggies, a balanced scoring attack led North Carolina A&T to another win as they look to erase the memory of their 0-7 start. Four different players reached double-figures, led by Joshea Singleton who scored a game-high 24 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor and 12-of-15 from the free throw line.
Bruce Beckford added in 14 points and 7 rebounds, while junior guard Sam Hunt added in 16 points of his own to pace the Aggies.
The loss was the third-straight for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (1-7, 0-2), and their second straight in conference play. They put themselves in a great chance down the stretch to come away with the win, and have to hold their heads high after coming back from a 19-point deficit in the second half. The road doesn’t get any easier for the Hawks, as they travel to East Lansing, MI on Wednesday night to take on the #1-ranked Michigan State Spartans.
As for the North Carolina A&T Aggies (4-7, 2-0), they scored their second straight win over a top contender in the MEAC. They have seemingly erased the memory of their 0-7 start, a run that included a loss to a non-Division I opponent, in Roanoke College. Filled with confidence, the Aggies will look to make it five-straight victories on Sunday afternoon when they go on the road to take on the East Carolina Pirates.