Bison Fall To NC A&T in First Round of MEAC Tourney
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Nic Simpson came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points and James Porter added 12 in a reserve capacity as North Carolina A&T defeated Howard University, 65-55 in the opening round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum. The Aggies (11-21), the Number 9 seed, advance to the quarterfinal round where they will face Morgan State University, the Number 1 seed on Wednesday at 7 pm.
The Bison (7-25), the Number 8 seed, swept North Carolina A&T during the regular season by jumping out to early leads. They appeared to have the same formula when they bolted out to a 9-2 lead to start the game.
That is when the Aggies went to their bench. Simpson and Porter helped fuel a 19-9 rally that would erase a nine-point deficit and give NC A&T a 31-30 advantage at the half and more importantly the momentum.
“The first two times that we played them, we were a bit lethargic,” said NC A&T head coach Jerry Eaves. “We wanted to make sure that we attacked the basket and got to the foul line. The bottom line is that this is the best effort that we have had in a long time”
Howard head coach Gil Jackson echoed Eaves sentiments.
“We had problems with their dribble drive all night,” said Jackson. “It caused some defensive breakdowns and we do not usually do that. I thought that they played with a lot of energy and they made it difficult for us offensively at times.”
The NC A&T defense forced Howard to miss 22 of its 29 shots taken in the second half, including 11 from beyond the arc. The Aggies also made the Bison pay by going to the foul line 31 times in the second half.
Simpson did most of his damage with slashes to the basket and soft floaters over outstretched hands. Porter was effective in the post area, connecting on 3-of-4 from the field while going to the charity stripe 11 times.
“He (Simpson) did not play that way in our first two games,” said Howard senior guard Curtis White, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the three-point line. “He was very aggressive in getting into the lane and getting to the basket.”
Senior center Paul Kirkpatrick had one of his best games in recent weeks with 12 points and five rebounds. Freshman Dadrian Collins chipped in with 10 points. Sophomore guard Calvin Thompson, who averaged 21.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two wins during the regular season, tallied nine points and six rebounds before his shoulder popped out and thus rendered him ineffective the second half.
In addition to the scoring of Simpson and Porter, Thomas Coleman was a factor with nine points and 14 rebounds.
The Aggies also lost both times they faced the Bears during the regular season. Eaves feels that it is going to be a tall challenge for his team.
“They are super consistent,” said Eaves. “Todd (Bozeman) has done a tremendous job. We had opportunities both times, but they proved to be resilient. It is going to be a great ballgame and we will have to play our A-plus game if we are to have a chance to win.”