Lady Wildcats Upset Aggies in MEAC Home Opener
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Lady Wildcats came away with a big conference victory in Saturday's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) home opener at historic Richard V. Moore Gymnasium, defeating MEAC third-ranked North Carolina A&T, 69-64, on the strength of a powerful defensive full-team effort, snapping a three-game losing skid and collecting the first win over the Aggies in seven years.
"It's a great win for the program." Head Coach Vanessa Blair said. "It was a big win for us and a big win for us to get up for, especially after losing to FAMU."
"We have a lot of good individuals, but when we come together as a team, these are the type of victories we can achieve."
Though the game remained tight in the early going, the Lady Aggies claimed their first lead of the half following a layup from sophomore Ariel Bursey, giving the visitors from Greensboro, N.C. an 11-9 advantage. The ensuing free throw pushed the Aggies lead to three before they eventually went on a 9-0 run to push the lead out to as many as 24-13.
The Cats fell behind by as many as 12 (27-15), but a three-pointer from Chastity René Taylor kicked off a 12-0 run, aided by a pair of buckets from redshirt junior Shakeyia Colyer. Taylor followed with another basket, and the Lady Wildcats were down just two (27-25) with 4:28 left in the opening half.
Tracy King and DeAndra Davis put N.C. A&T back up by seven until the lead was trimmed to one at 34-33 on the strength of a 6-0 B-CU run, capped off by Taylor's three-point basket (her second of the half).
However, North Carolina A&T produced their own long-range look, as point guard Adriana Nazario tacked on a three with four seconds on the clock. The Aggies took a 37-33 advantage into the locker room at the break, using a 22-11 edge in bench points, with 12 coming from King.
A big part of the halftime deficit for the Wildcats were their nine turnovers. The Aggies took advantage with 14 points off those nine turnovers.
Down just five at the half, the Lady Wildcats struggled early in the second period offensively, but never let up on defense. B-CU held N.C. A&T without a field goal for over seven minutes, crossing the midpoint of the half. The Lady Wildcats took advantage, making a furious 14-2 run that allowed them a 53-50 lead with 7:40 left in the game. Steals from Taylor and Taylor Houston led to fastbreak buckets and three-point plays for the Wildcats.
"We really focused defensively on the things that we had talked about in practice, to be able to get some steals and get some fastbreak opportunities," Blair said, "and allow our offense to flow more smoothly."
Though the margin swayed back and forth, as Aggies overtook B-CU for the lead at 56-54, Taylor knocked down a three-point basket from the right corner to end a 4-0 B-CU run that gave them a 59-56 edge with just over four minutes remaining; a lead they would hold to the final buzzer.
A steal from Terrenisha Hollis at the midcourt area led to another fastbreak opportunity and layup for the Cats that allowed them a comfortable 62-58 edge with 2:17 remaining.
The Lady Wildcats took care of business at the free throw line, hitting 5-of-6 in the final two minutes to secure the 69-64 win over the Aggies, the first since the 2005-06 season, and first under Blair.
Though N.C. A&T is typically strong at protecting the ball (17.7 turnovers per game), the Lady Wildcats pressured the Aggies into 24 turnovers on the day, using the opportunity to score 25 off Aggies giveaways.
"Our focus was getting them into traps and keeping them on one side of the floor," Blair noted of the defensive effort.
Taylor logged double figures for the 11th time this season with her team-high 19 points; the 10th time she's led the team in scoring this season. Colyer logged a season-high 17 points to aid the effort, along with four assists and five boards. Jasmine Evans joined the pair with 11. Hollis came up big on the glass, grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds, in addition to three steals and seven points.
The Lady Wildcats return to action on Monday for the brief home stretch, playing host to the North Carolina Central Eagles, who fell to 0-16 on the season with a Saturday afternoon loss to Florida A&M, 52-35.