A&T Aggies fall in double-overtimeCourtesy NC A&T Sports Information / March 11, 2016
NORFOLK, Va. – As the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team came over to the bench at the end of the first overtime, Aggie senior Bruce Beckford summed it up best: “It’s March.”
Indeed, the matchup between the sixth-seeded Aggies and the 11th-seeded Coppin State Eagles in the 2016 MEAC Basketball Championship Tournament at the Norfolk Scope Arena had all the drama and excitement that March Madness is known for each year. Also synonymous with March Madness, there is a winner and loser. On Monday, the Eagles outlasted the Aggies 98-91 in double overtime to advance to meet third-seed S.C. State on Thursday in a quarterfinal matchup.
Beckford closed out his superb career at N.C. A&T with three straight double-doubles as he finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds on Monday. For the second time in three games junior Denzel Keyes matched Beckford’s double-double, finishing with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Four more Aggies scored in double figures as senior Ahmad Abdullah had 16 points and six assists, graduate forward Ede Egharevba finished with 15 and Sam Hunt and James Whitaker added 10 apiece.
It was the Aggies first double overtime game in eight years.
N.C. A&T ended the season 10-22 overall and they had a 7-9 season in the MEAC. N.C. A&T head basketball coach Jay Joyner took over the program on Jan. 29 and led the Aggies to a 5-3 mark in conference play.
Foul trouble would be a significant problem for his Aggies on Monday. Hunt missed most of the first half with two fouls. When Beckford fouled out of the game with 2:45 remaining and the Aggies trailing 91-86 in the second overtime, the Aggies had already lost Egharevba and Whitaker to disqualifications as well.
Despite the loss of firepower offensively, the Aggies didn’t fold. Abdullah dribbled off a high screen at the top of the key and pulled up for a jump shot just outside the free throw line to score and cut the Eagles’ lead to three. Keyes then drove to the basket and was fouled. He connected on two free throws to cut the lead to 91-90 with 1:46 to play. Eighteen seconds later CSU guard James Sylvester drove to the basket and was fouled by Hunt. It was Hunt’s fifth foul making him the fourth Aggie to foul out.
“It was tough playing without those guys. There is no question about it,” said Joyner. “I thought if we had locked up on defense a little more and not played with our hands as opposed to sliding our feet we would not have been placed in that situation.”
N.C. A&T had their chances to win the game in regulation. The Aggies led 78-77 with 1:02 to play in regulation. Kessee missed a 3-pointer to take the lead, but the Aggies weren’t able to come up with the rebound. Kessee took the second opportunity to net a three from 25 feet out to give the Eagles an 80-78 lead with 10.2 seconds remaining in regulation.