A hard-fought win over last-place Elon Wednesday night has pushed the NC A&T men’s basketball team closer to its goal.
The 66-61 down-to-the-wire victory saw the Aggies right the ship after losing their last two games by double digits to Monmouth (69-54) and UNC-Wilmington (87-63). With the win, their record improved to 7-6 in the CAA, good for sixth place in the 13-team league. They are a game behind Drexel (8-5) for fifth place and two games behind fourth-place UNC-Wilmington (9-4) with five games left on the regular season schedule.
NC A&T looking to get to fourth
That fourth spot is key as the top four teams from the regular season get double-byes in the March 3-7 Jersey Mike’s CAA Tournament at the Entertainment and Sports Center in Washington, D. C. That means those teams don’t play in the No. 12 vs. No. 13 game on Friday, March 3. Nor do they play when teams seeded fifth thru 12th play on Saturday, March 4. The top four teams take the court in the tournament’s quarterfinal round on Sunday, March 5.
Interim head coach Phillip Shumpert would like nothing better than for the Aggies to win their remaining five games and rise into the top four. But they’re going to need some help. Of the teams in front of them – Charleston and Hofstra tied at 11-2 in first, Towson third at 9-3, UNC-Wilmington and Drexel – the Aggies only face Towson on the road on Feb. 18.
NC A&T can also help itself
What they need is the teams in front of them to beat up on each other.
“The way we’re approaching it is we’re trying to win the rest of our games,” Shumpert said, “take one game at a time and win them all. If we take care of our end, somebody – Drexel, Charleston and Towson – they all still have to play each other. We’ve just got to take care of our business, our team.”
But getting through this five-game stretch unscathed is not going to be easy.
“Elon had won three games in a row and Monmouth had too,” Shumpert said. “They (Monmouth) were a one-win team and Elon hadn’t won a Div. I game in 19 tries. But that was three or four games ago. They (both) already got three wins in the conference. That let’s you know that each and every night you got to come and be ready because any team and anybody can come out and beat you in this league. It’s a great league. It’s a really good league.”
Before falling to the Aggies, last-place Elon had beaten Stony Brook, Northeastern and Drexel in consecutive games. After starting 1-20 overall and 0-8 in the CAA, Monmouth beat Drexel, the Aggies and Delaware and got its fourth consecutive win Wednesday vs. Stony Brook.
“It’s not a night off in this league,” Shumpert said.
Keys for NC A&T
“Defending, rebounding, playing together and continuing to build chemistry are what will be necessary to get wins over this final stretch,” Shumpert said.
“We’ve got two road games against Stony Brook (Feb. 11) and Monmouth (Feb. 13). We’re going to have to hard-core rebound and defend, play together and share the basketball.”
The Aggies then play at Towson (Feb. 18) before closing the regular season at home against Delaware (Feb. 23) and Hampton (Feb. 25).