CHARLOTTE – The North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team defeated the Radford Highlanders, 78-71, in the first round of the Big South Basketball Tournament Championships inside the Bojangles’ Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon.
Radford, trailing 41-27, came out with a different, more inspired brand of basketball to begin the second half. After back-to-back 3-pointers from Rashun Williams and Jeffers, the Highlanders had already cut the game to single-digits, 44-35, with 18:05 to play.
A&T would respond with a pull-up jumper from junior Demetric Horton, followed by a fastbreak layup from Filmore. A few minutes later, graduate guard Tyler Maye’s driving layup put the Aggies up 12 with 12:26 to play.
Things were looking great for A&T at that moment, but the team would go without a field goal over the next 11-plus minutes, allowing Radford to mount a comeback.
The Highlanders slowly but surely got back into the game thanks to the scoring drought from A&T. The Aggies did shoot 4-for-6 from the free throw line to keep Radford at bay as long as they could, but with three minutes left, Bryan Hart’s free throw tied the game at 58.
Both teams went scoreless over the next two minutes until forward Dravon Mangum got fouled attempting a layup in the lane. Mangum missed the first free throw but made the second to give the Highlanders their first lead since the 15:25 mark of the first half.
Maye missed a jumper on A&T’s next offensive possession, but the defense came up clutch, forcing a tough look that Jeffers missed, giving the Aggies the ball back with less than a minute remaining.
A&T called timeout, drew up a look for Watson, and the sophomore delivered in the biggest moment of his career. Watson waved off his teammates for an isolation drive past his defender for a layup and A&T’s first basket in over 11 minutes to put them up one, 60-59, with 49 seconds to play.
Mangum got fouled again on the ensuing Highlander possession but split the trip to the free throw line again, leaving the game knotted at 60. Each team got a look to take the lead, but ultimately the game headed to overtime.
That’s when the Aggies kicked it into high gear and put Radford to bed permanently. They fired off an 11-0 run to begin the extra period. The spurt started with a pull-up jumper from Watson to take the lead.
Then, Langley was weaving through the lane when he got a glimpse of Watson cutting back door, so he threw up the lob next to the rim, and Watson grabbed it and threw it down with authority.
Watson scored seven of the 11 points during the run and even assisted on that emphatic fastbreak slam from Filmore.
The Highlanders knocked down a few 3-pointers to make it somewhat interesting late, but A&T shot 10-for-11 from the free throw line down the stretch.
Junior forward Jeremy Robinson was enormous for the Aggies in the first half. His career-high coming in today’s was 11 points. He poured in 14 in the first 20 minutes alone, highlighted by 3-for-3 shooting from downtown. He scored 17 for the game.
Courtesy: North Carolina A&T Athletics