NORFOLK, Va., — No. 1 seed North Carolina A&T State rode a 30-point win over in-state rival and ninth-seeded North Carolina Central to reach the semifinals of the 2019 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament Wednesday afternoon at Scope Arena.
The Aggies will play on Friday at 12 p.m. against either Howard or Norfolk State.
The Aggies (20-10) placed four players in double figures, led by Jasmen Walton’s game-high 19. The freshman guard made six of her eight attempts from the field and recorded five steals.
Also finishing in double digits for N.C. A&T were C’coriea Foy (14), Cinia McCray (12) and Charnise Tyler (11). Foy filled the box score for the Aggies, contributing seven rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals.
Paulina Afriyie led the Lady Eagles (9-22) with 13 points along with four rebounds and one steal and block apiece.
“[Afriyie] is one of the most humble stars of this conference,” N.C. Central head coach Trisha Stafford-Odom said.
Defensively, the Aggies pressured N.C. Central into 28 turnovers and held the Lady Eagles to 32.7-percent shooting. N.C. A&T was quick to turn good defense into offense, scoring 28 points off Lady Eagle turnovers.
“We eliminate the pressure by applying pressure,” Foy said of her team’s defensive identity. “We know to go hard on defense. That’s what we know best.”
Led by its high-pressure defense, N.C. A&T opened the game on a 9-0 run after forcing turnovers on three of its first four defensive possessions. McCray netted five points for the Aggies during the run and scored 11 points in the first half on 4-for-7 shooting with three 3-pointers.
An early timeout from Stafford-Odom helped calm down the Lady Eagles. NCCU finally put points on the board at the 7:03 mark of the quarter and outscored the Aggies 13-10 to close out the quarter.
A dominant second quarter allowed the Aggies to turn a six-point first quarter advantage into a 22-point halftime lead. N.C. A&T shot a blistering 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) in the second and was 4-of-6 on long-range attempts.
Two scoring runs for N.C. A&T dominated the second quarter. Beginning with a trey from Walton, a 13-3 run spanning 3:01 put the Aggies ahead 40-21 with 2:43 left in the half. Afriyie momentarily stopped run with an old-fashioned three-point play before N.C. A&T scored the last six points of the half.
Walton netted 10 of her 19 points in the second and did not miss a shot while doing so — going 4-for-4 from the field and 1-for-1 from long range. Additionally, the Baltimore, Maryland native racked up three steals while playing only four minutes in the frame.
The third quarter saw a reversal of fortunes as the Lady Eagles shot 54.5 percent from the floor while the Aggies managed only 23.1 percent.
“Our continuity was off,” N.C. A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson said. “The ball was getting stuck in our point guard’s hands.”
NCCU cut the Aggies’ lead to 15 — their smallest advantage of the second half — with a 10-1 run spanning five minutes of the quarter. Afriyie scored three during the run, all at the foul line, and the Lady Eagles also received a boost in the form of a 3-point play from Ashlyn Lockard.
N.C. A&T led by 18 in the closing moments of the third, but a 3-pointer from Shontai Totten made the score 56-41 leading into the final 10 minutes.
The Lady Eagles scored only eight points in the fourth quarter as the Aggies put the game to rest. N.C. A&T sprinted out to a 30-point advantage on the strength of a 15-0 run over the first four minutes of the period.
N.C. Central missed its first five shot attempts and turned the ball over four times during that run. For the quarter, the Lady Eagles managed only 2-for-14 (14.3 percent) shooting with five giveaways.