Host North Carolina A&T held South Carolina State to just 15 second-half points in earning a 58-35 victory over the Bulldogs Saturday in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest at Corbert Sports Center.
The Aggie win avenged a 72-70 lost to the Bulldogs two weeks ago in Orangeburg. That victory remains the lone MEAC win this season for SC State, which fell to 5-22 overall and 1-13 in the league.
The Bulldogs trailed by just seven points at the half, 27-20, and scored the first basket of the final 20 minutes to come to within 27 22 on A Shaquille Mitchell follow shot with 18:42 left. But that would be just one of four field goals SC State would score in 25 attempts in the second half.
Following Mitchell's basket, NC A&T went on a 14-0 run, fueled by back-to-back 3-pointers by Jean Louisme that gave the Aggies a 41-22 advantage with 17:43 on the clock. SC State got four free throws – two each from Louie Adams and Luka Radovic – to close the gap to 41-26 with 10:50 showing.
But a 12-3 run by former Bulldog head coach Cy Alexander – now in the same position at NC A&T – put the host ahead by its biggest margin, 53-29 with 5:05 to play. The Bulldogs could only get to within 18 points, at 53-35, with just under two minutes left.
"We have to do a better job of making shots," said Bulldog head coach Murray Garvin, who recently took over the position following the resignation of Tim Carter. "We missed a lot of open shots.
"When I was hired to take this job," continued Garvin, "I knew it would not be easy. We have a young program and we are going to have nights like this but we will continue to work and coach as hard as we can to get these young men to perform better.
"We didn't match their energy in the second half. It seems as when we face adversity, we put too much pressure on ourselves and sometimes try to do too much individually. The stat of the game, however, was that we shot in the low 20s.
No Bulldog reached double figures in the contest. Mitchell and senior Khalif Toombs had seven points each to lead SC State. Matthew Hezekiah and reserve Phillip Henry had five points each in the contest in which SC State made just 11 field goals in 54 attempts.
Freshman Darryl Palmer led SC State on the boards with 11, while Devin Joint, a sophomore, snared 10.
The Aggies were not substantially better in the shooting department than the Bulldogs, as they made just 31.6 percent of their shots. But the decisive run to start the second half was the difference.
NC A&T was led by Louisme with 15 points and Jeremy Underwood, who came off the bench for 10. The Aggies climbed to 14-15 and 7-7 in the MEAC.
The Bulldogs continue a two-game, four-day road trip Monday at NC Central. Tipoff is 7:30, following a 5:30 p.m. women's contest.