GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks were supposed to open up the MEAC portion of their schedule on Saturday, but Mother Nature had other plans. Due to inclement weather in the North Carolina area, Saturday’s game against the North Carolina Central Eagles was moved to Tuesday afternoon.
That also meant that Monday’s game against the North Carolina A&T Aggies would be the Hawks’ conference opener. Monday’s game was moved up three hours due to the weather, and tipped off just after 4pm EST.
Despite having to wait an extra two days, the Hawks came ready to play. It seems as though nobody was more ready than Ryan Andino.
In the Hawks’ first game of 2017, Andino recorded 23 points in a 90-65 win over Valley Forge. On Monday, he shot the lights out inside the Corbett Sports Center.
Andino finished the game shooting 10-of-14 from the floor, and 9-of-13 from three point range, and he recorded a career-high 31 points as the Hawks cruised to the 99-88 win over the Aggies.
Davaris McGowens hit a pair of free throws in the opening minute to draw first blood for the Aggies. A minute later, Raymond Pratt got a layup to go that gave the home side a 4-3 lead.
That was the last lead that North Carolina A&T would have on the afternoon. From there, it was all about the Hawks.
Dontae Caldwell hit a three just over two minutes into the game to give the Hawks a 6-4 advantage, and they were off and running. The lead would only grow as the half wore on, and a three pointer at the 3:25 mark from Thomas Rivera gave the Hawks a 24-point lead, their biggest of the day.
The Aggies trimmed the deficit down to 15 points before the break, but their backs were firmly against the wall. Guard Logan McIntosh had eight assists at half time for the Hawks. He finished the day with 11 dimes.
Early in the second half, a jumper from Eliel Gonzalez brought the Aggies back to within 11, but the Hawks had an answer. Eastern Shore reeled off a quick 7-0 run, capped off by one of Ryan Andino‘s nine three pointers on the day, and the lead was quickly back to 18 points.
Whenever the Aggies would look to make a run and try to cut into the Hawks’ lead, Eastern Shore always had an answer. The Hawks were never threatened in the second half, and they cruised to the 99-88 win over North Carolina A&T to open up conference play.
Credit coach Bobby Collins for scheduling such a tough non-conference slate for the Hawks this year. While the wins may not have been there, it allowed for the team to find the right combination of players that can lead them on the road to a MEAC crown. It also showed where they stack up against bigger programs, and gave them the opportunity to try new things and correct mistakes before the grind of conference play.
It all paid off on Monday night.
Ryan Andino continued his strong 2016-17 season, scoring a career-high 31 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the win. He was also 9-of-13 from three point range.
After a down year in 2015-16, the junior is averaging 13.0 points per game this season, and is among the nation’s leaders in three point shooting (40.8%).
Bakari Copeland also finished the day shooting 10-of-14 from the floor, recording 26 points to go along with 6 rebounds. Logan McIntosh narrowly missed a double-double, recording 9 points and 11 assists in the win.
For the home side, guard Eliel Gonzalez scored a team-high 21 points off the bench. Sam Hunt added 19 points and 3 rebounds in the loss.
The win extends the winning streak for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (4-12, 1-0) to a modest two games. They return to the court on Wednesday night against the aforementioned North Carolina Central Eagles.
Despite preseason optimism surrounding the program, the 2016-17 season hasn’t gone according to plan for the North Carolina A&T Aggies (1-15, 0-3). They’ll try once more for their first conference win of the year on Saturday when they take on the Coppin State Eagles.
– T. Bennett