By Brian Holloway, Sports Communication North Carolina A&T
GREENSBORO – It is hard to imagine a women’s basketball team in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) playing better defense than the North Carolina A&T Aggies.
A&T did not score a field goal over the final 5:45 of Sunday’s game against the Liberty Flames at Corbett Sports Center. No problem. The Aggies were winning at the time and then proceeded to hold Liberty without a field over the final five minutes of the game on their way to a 56-47 win.
“Our young women understand the staple of our team is defense,” said A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson. “And to have big games and win big games like Wednesday and today, we still know we can better, so the sky’s the limit for this team.”
It has been an impeccable week for the Aggies, who improved to 3-1 after Sunday’s win. They traveled to Winston-Salem on Wednesday and defeated an ACC opponent in the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 56-51. A&T held the Deacs to 29.8 percent shooting.
Liberty came to Corbett with a team predicted to finish in a second-place tie in Conference USA. The Flames shot 5-for-9 (.556) in the first quarter. The Flames shot 11-for-39 (.282) the rest of the way. The Aggies took a 24-18 halftime lead after the Flames shot 1-for-13 from the floor in the second quarter.
Then, over the first four minutes of the second half, the Aggies turned to the one they call “Shaq,” Chaniya Clark, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday for her third career double-double. Clark’s first basket of the second was a three from the top of the key, giving the Aggies a 29-20 lead.
Senior Maleia Bracone then found Clark open for a 15-footer from the elbow. After a 3-pointer from Liberty’s Jordan Bailey, Clark struck twice again. She took a pass from D’Mya Tucker for a layup before dropping another bucket off a Tucker pass to give the Aggies a 35-23 lead with 6:44 remaining in the third.
“We got the ball to Chaniya Clark inside, out,” said Robinson about the third quarter. “She has been delivering, and it’s no secret, I love post players, and I love to get them the ball. Getting the ball to Shaq gives us confidence and builds our rhythm.”
But after Clark’s barrage, the Flames went on a 10-run, using seven points off A&T turnovers to cut the Aggies lead to two, 35-33. The Aggies scored the next four points before an Elisabeth Aegisdottir jumper sent the Flames into the fourth quarter trailing 39-35.
A&T opened the fourth quarter by scoring seven straight points, capped off by a fastbreak 3-pointer from Jordyn Dorsey in the corner, increasing the Aggies back to double figures at 46-35. A Bracone 3-pointer with 5:44 to play kept the Aggies in front at 50-42. It would mark their final field goal of the game.
Two Laila Acox free throws pushed A&T’s lead back to double figures before a Bailey jump shot with 4:59 remaining cut the Aggies lead to 52-44. Bailey’s jumper marked the Flames’ final field goal. Liberty went 0-for-7 from the floor the remainder of the game and dropped to 2-2 on the season.
Jordyn Dorsey was the only other Aggie in double figures, as she finished with 11 points. Bracone had eight points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal. Emma Hess led Liberty with 14 points.
“Liberty was picked second in Conference USA, so they are a very respectable program,” said Robinson. “Coach (Carey) Green is a coach I really respect, so I’m excited about this win and the future of this program.”