Jan. 7, 2012
By Dan Ryan
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Some things from last year’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season championship may have carried over for Bethune-Cookman. On Saturday they were the ability to pull out a last-second road thriller and Kevin Dukes hitting the big shot at North Carolina A&T as the Wildcats stunned the Aggies 59-56 in the Corbett Center.
Dukes drained two three-pointers in the final 26 seconds , including the game-winner with seven seconds left as the Wildcats (5-11 overall, 2-0 MEAC) erased a 56-51 deficit to post their first true road of the season and their first victory in a game decided by five points or less.
Then again, this is what the Wildcats did all last year. B-CU has now won ten straight road games against MEAC opposition, with eight decided in the final 30 seconds or overtime. Two of them came here at A&T, both aided by a Dukes three-pointer in the clutch.
“I got to do what I got to do for the team,” said Dukes, who finished with a game-high 23. “We worked on the play earlier this morning. Coach [Gravelle] Craig knew we’d be in a situation like that and told me once I get it, shoot it.”
Dukes and the rest Wildcats struggled from the field (34.4 percent) throughout the game, but the junior finished with five three-pointers.
“I told him to keep shooting. I knew he could make the shots once he gets in a rhythm,” Craig said. “Kevin’s a good shooter. You want to get him looks down the stretch. I like to have the ball in his hands down the stretch because he’s experienced.”
B-CU tied the game at 49 on an Anthony Breeze lay-up with 3:35 to go, but the Aggies (5-12,0-2) scored the next six points and appeared to have things locked up with 1:02 left.
When the Aggies missed four of five free throws in the final minute, that opened it for Dukes and the Wildcats to make a comeback. Dukes drove for a lay-up to make it 55-51 with 30 seconds left and sank a three to make it 56-54 four seconds later.
Two missed Aggies free throws gave B-CU the final shot. Dukes took a Paul Scotland feed and hit a NBA three to put B-CU ahead 57-56. Scotland was fouled after forcing a turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass and made two free throws to create the final margin.
While Dukes provided the drama, two other key factors helped B-CU pull this one out:
• B-CU held North Carolina A&T 19 points under its 75.6 average.
“Defense. Defense, defense, defense,” Dukes said. “ It’s all we worked on this week.”
• B-CU outrebounded North Carolina A&T 45-32, led by Breeze and Garrius Holloman with nine each. The Wildcats had been outrebounded in their last ten games.
"Rebounding was big,” Craig said. “It was important to limit their second shots.”
B-CU plays North Carolina Central Monday.
NOTES: B-CU has won 4 of the past 5 meetings with North Carolina A&T ... The Wildcats have made more 3FG than their opponents in the last four games ... This was Dukes' second 20-point game of the season and his 15 3 FGA puts him in the school record book for third-highest 3 FGA in a game ... His 5 3 FG was a career-high ... Breeze has now led or co-led the team in rebounding 4 times this season ... PG Ricky Johnson (ankle) was out, but Scotland and Alex Smith returned to the line-up after missing five and four games, respectively.