A&T wins sixth straight to remain in first-place tieCourtesy A&T Athletics / February 2, 2024
A year ago, the North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team started 6-1 in the Coastal Athletic Association. The Aggies went on to post an 8-1 record during the first half of the conference season before going 4-5 over the second half.
After the ladies’ 56-42 win over the Elon Phoenix Sunday afternoon at Corbett Sports Center, A&T has won six straight to improve to 12-6 overall and 6-1 in conference play. Junior guard Jordyn Dorsey led the Aggies with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists on 5-for-10 shooting. The Aggies remain in a first-place tie with Stony Brook. Elon fell to 7-13 overall and 3-4 in league play.
“They want to get back to where we were last year but finish the job,” said A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson. “(Assistant coach Asia Dozier) said sustainability. Is that a word? But our sustainability has to be on point this year, where it wasn’t last year. I continue to say that to them because I want to remind them this is where we were last year. Now let’s finish the job.”
A&T was a perennial power in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), winning four regular-season and three conference tournament titles in nine seasons under Robinson. The Aggies played their 25th game as a CAA program on Sunday, improving to 18-7 since joining the league. Despite the Aggies being under .500 in the second half last season, they finished only a game out of first place before losing in the first round of the CAA tournament due in part to injury and illness.
“We fumbled the ball last year, so we had to step back and see what went wrong,” said Dorsey. “We understand we can’t get comfortable. We can’t forget they picked us eighth. Now, we are at the top, so we are motivated to work harder and get better individually and as a team.”
The Aggies have won their previous six games by an average of 10.2 points while holding teams to 31.9 percent shooting from the field and 25.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. On Sunday, the Phoenix shot 28.3 percent from the field and were just 2-for-20 (.100) from three. Elon connected on six field goals in the first quarter and led 15-14 after the first.
A&T’s defense got tenacious from there, allowing Elon a combined seven field goals made over the next two quarters combined, including only two in the second period. Despite the outstanding defense, the Aggies did not build a lead against the Phoenix until midway through the third quarter. Maraja Pass made a jump shot to give the Phoenix a 24-22 lead in the third.
A&T responded by putting together an 11-0 run that included five points from Chaniya Clark and four points from Dorsey. A Bracone steal and a layup capped the run as the Aggies took a 33-24 lead with 3:01 to play in the third quarter.
After an Elon free throw, Laila Acox continued the run as she slipped off a screen and found herself open underneath on the cut. Taila Davis lasered a pass to her for a layup. Ajia James fouled her and Acox completed the 3-point play for a 36-25 lead. A Jessica Booth spinning move for Elon in the lane chopped the lead to nine before Maleia Bracone waited in the corner for a Dorsey pass. Bracone caught the pass and splashed a three to put the Aggies ahead 39-27 with 36 seconds remaining. From the 6-minute mark of the third quarter until Bracone’s shot, the Aggies outscored the Phoenix 17-3.
“We are always going to bring that,” Robinson said about the Aggies’ defense. “Offensively, we still have a lot of growth in that area. But there is never an excuse for not defending.”
Elon did score the final five points of the third quarter and the first four of the fourth to cut A&T’s lead to 39-36 with 7:42 remaining in the game. But the Aggies gathered themselves again defensively, holding the Phoenix to one field goal over the next 4 1/2 minutes. Iycez Adams’s turnaround jumper cut A&T’s lead to 45-40.
But freshman Paris Locke got a steal and scored, and senior D’Mya Tucker drove to the basket and scored. Two Bracone free throws competed A&T’s 6-0 run for a 51-40 lead with 1:55 to play. Elon never got any closer than nine the rest of the way.
Clark had 12 points and seven rebounds on 8-for-12 shooting from the line. Bracone added 11 points, connecting on all six free throw attempts. Maya Johnson led the Phoenix with 11 points. A&T will play two of its next three on the road, starting with UNC Wilmington on Friday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m.
“Whatever is in front of us, we are ready,” said Robinson.