CHARLOTTE -- North Carolina A&T nearly turned in an incredible feat in its first Big South tournament game Wednesday at Bojangles' Coliseum.
The Aggies hit two fewer field goals in a five-minute overtime period than they hit the entire second half of their lid-lifter against Radford. A&T made four more in extra time than they made in an 11-plus minute stretch of the second stanza.
Still, A&T found a way. Three Aggies finished in double digits -- led by Marcus Watson's 18-point, 11-board double-double -- with ninth-seeded A&T using an 11-0 burst to start the overtime period and turn away eighth-seeded Radford, 78-71, in overtime.
"That was a big-time win," said A&T coach Will Jones after the game. "I thought our guys laid it on the line. In the overtime, we took it to a whole other level."
Jeremy Robinson added 17 on 4-for-6 shooting for the Aggies, with 14 of those points coming in the first half. Tyler Maye contributed 10 in 19-plus minutes off the bench, hitting 4-of-8 looks from the deck.
Four Highlanders scored in double figures. Josiah Jeffers connected on 7-of-16 attempts from the maple, pacing the Highlanders with 18 points. Bryan Hart, Artese Stapleton, and Lewis Djonkam all tallied 10 apiece for Radford.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Collin Smith broke the seal for the Aggies, putting home a layup just 14 seconds into the game
The teams traded the lead on three possessions, before an 8-0 A&T run keyed by five Robinson points put the Aggies ahead by seven (11:58)
Tyler Maye knocked down a jumper that extended A&T's lead to 11 off the heels of another Robinson trey (9:46)
Back-to-back Jeffers buckets knifed the margin to seven, before a Demetric Horton bucket and and-one from Robinson grew the lead to 12 (6:14)
Radford cut the lead to nine on a Camron McNeil jumper (4:17), but A&T countered with an 8-1 burst capped by a David Beatty triple to give itself a 16-point advantage (:50)
Another Maye jumper at the horn provided the Aggies the 14-point advantage they took to the interval (41-27)
A&T: 58.3% FG (14-24), 62.5% 3FG (5-8), 88.9% FT (8-9), 1.281 PPP (32 trips), 56.3% scoring, 21.9% turnovers
Radford: 33.3% FG (10-30), 10.0% 3FG (1-10), 60.0% FT (6-10), .871 PPP (31 trips), 41.9% scoring, 16.1% turnovers
A&T maintained a double-digit advantage for all but one possession during the first seven minutes of the second half
Radford pieced together a 5-0 burst between Rashun Williams and Stapleton, reducing the Aggie advantage to eight (13:16)
The Aggies again took a 12-point lead, countered by a 10-1 Radford run that cut it to three (5:36)
The icy stretch continued for the Aggies, as Radford ever-so-gradually drew level on a Bryan Hart bucket (3:15)
A&T finally connected on its first basket in 11:37, as a Watson bucket returned the lead to the Aggies at 60-59 (:49)
Radford connected on one of two free throw tries late to again square the contest (:39)
A&T missed two free throws, followed by a Josiah Jeffers try from the paint that refused to fall, sending it to overtime tied at 60
A&T scored the first 11 points of extra time, with a thunderous dunk from Webster Filmore providing the exclamation point on the run (1:07)
Hart knocked home a triple to cut it to eight, followed by a Josiah Jeffers three that reduced the Aggie advantage to six (:42)
A&T closed out the game from there, taking the win in extra time
A&T: 47.1% FG (24-51), 42.9% (6-14), 77.4% FT (24-31), 1.130 PPP (69 trips), 52.2% scoring, 18.8% turnovers
Radford: 36.2% FG (25-69), 18.5% 3FG (5-27), 72.7% FT (16-22), .947 PPP (75 trips), 41.9% scoring, 16.1% turnovers
A&T COACH WILL JONES
On the result: "We just played Radford this past weekend, and we knew it would be a street fight. We talked about rebounds -- securing the rebounds and playing together. If you look at the stat sheet, we had guys who did both of those things. Marcus had an unbelievable night -- a double-double, tough on the glass. I thought our guys laid it on the line and when we went to overtime, we took it to a whole other level. We're happy to be going to the next round to play Longwood."
On keeping it together in the second half: "The ball wasn't falling our way. We weren't getting any fouls, and we weren't getting any free throws. After they made those couple of threes, I thought we took the three away again. We didn't allow them to hit threes.
"I told the guys before the game that we were gonna get hit, and we got hit right there at the end of the second half. I told our guys that we can't fold. We've gotta get up immediately and respond. Once we got into overtime, I think we had another gear and ultimately separated, which helped us get the win."
On facing Longwood again in the quarterfinals: "It's great. I think that we've had two games where we've led probably 60 minutes. They haven't led us for more than three minutes, probably, in the entire series of both games this year. (Longwood guard) Jordan Perkins said, 'we'll see you again,' so I guess it was meant to be. It'll be a good game here on Friday.
A&T GUARD MARCUS WATSON
On the final possession of regulation: "He (Jeffers) threw it up and had a nice opportunity. We contested it well. It didn't go his well. I think we had to focus on going to overtime and make sure we had the right tempo going into overtime."
On the 11-plus minute stretch without a field goal: "When we first got here, Coach said they were gonna hit us first. They were gonna hit us, and it was about how we responded. That was their best shot. You just have to bounce back off that, get up quick, and respond ASAP.
"In this game -- the game of basketball -- you have to have a short-term memory. That's what our team was doing forward today -- moving forward and staying together. It was a moment we haven't seen all year. We were really together. We were like, 'Next play, next play.' Later, in overtime, we were playing together. I think that was the most we've been together all year. I think that's what really helped us push forward."
RADFORD COACH DARRIS NICHOLS
On the postgame conversation: "First of all, these days are not easy. I think that, for people on the outside looking in, they think that guys get emotional after you're put out of a tournament because of the loss. We have emotions because when you're in there looking at Bryan Hart, you're looking at Lewis Djonkam, and you're looking at Chyree Walker, you get emotional because you see how much they poured into the program.
"It's not about that loss. You're reflecting -- and they're reflecting -- on how much joy they had being at Radford University. Those are the things that hit you. Those things are what make college basketball special."
RADFORD GUARD JOSIAH JEFFERS
On the joy Nichols mentioned: "Radford's always been a brotherhood. We're really connected. We go through adversity together. We pretty much have built a family throughout the year. When adversity hits, you either overcome it or you don't."
On the final play of regulation: "We thought they were gonna go with a 1-3-1 zone, but they switched to a 3-2. It was kind of just go make something happen at that point. The lane was kind of cluttered, and we tried to take the best shot possible."