Bland scores 20 on four 3-pointers
*****from Jim Modlin at the Gold’s Gym, courtesy of Brian Holloway-N.C. A&T SID*****

DOVER, Del.– In an eerie episode of turnabout is fair play, the Delaware State women’s basketball team overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to hand North Carolina A&T its first conference loss of the season, 68-66 in a game televised on ESPNU from Memorial Hall.

Amber Bland, the conference’s leading 3-point shooter, missed a 3-pointer from the deep corner at the buzzer to seal the win for the Hornets (14-11, 10-2 MEAC). The Hornets are now one game behind the first-place Aggies (18-6, 11-1 MEAC). Amber Bland led the Aggies with 20 points and seven rebounds. Brittanie Taylor-James added 15 and Jaleesa Sams had 10 points and eight rebounds.

“They were the aggressor tonight,’’ said Bibbs. “There is no question about that. But they always play an aggressive style. It’s not something we haven’t seen before. We were a little too passive today.”

One of those aggressors was junior guard Selena Galloway. She began giving an indication she was going to be a nuisance for the Aggies with 8 ½ minutes remaining in the game. She hit a 3-pointer from the corner as the shot clock expired to cut the Aggies lead to 53-50. Bland answered with five straight points to stretch the Aggies lead back to eight.

The Hornets responded by going on an 11-2 run that was capped off by two Galloway free throws and a Galloway runner in the lane that gave the Hornets a 61-60 lead with 2:22 remaining. It was the Hornets first lead since it was 1-0 a minute into the ballgame. Bland made sure the lead didn’t last long as she knocked down a 3-pointer near the Aggies bench to reclaim the lead 63-61.

Galloway then made two consecutive strong moves to the basket. The first resulted in a layup and the second resulted in a foul on Sams which led to two made Hornets free throws for a 65-63 lead with 1:35 to play. The Hornets increased their lead to four over the final 20 seconds of the game. Bland kept the Aggies’ hopes alive with a remarkable shot. With Sonia Johnson smothering her defensively, Bland managed to elevate above her to connect on a three that cut the lead to 67-66 with seven seconds remaining.

Galloway hit only one out of two free throws on the other end to give the Aggies a chance. But Bland’s shot fell short of the mark as the Aggies experienced their first road loss in eight games. “We just didn’t take care of the ball tonight,’’ said N.C. A&T head coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs, who saw her team’s 12-game winning streak come to an end.

“We turned it over during crucial points in the game, and we also missed crucial free throws in the clutch. The ladies are hurt. They wanted to go undefeated in the conference. But the thing about it is; this loss doesn’t send us home. I told them, ‘Let’s decide right now we don’t want to feel this way again and go out and handle business the rest of the way.’”

Apparently the Hornets remembered what the Aggies did to them at Corbett Sports Center because they almost repeated it verbatim.

A month ago it was the Aggies who overcame a 15-point second half deficit to defeat the Hornets in Greensboro. The Aggies comeback in Greensboro was due to strong bench play, turnovers and timely rebounding. Delaware State outscored the Aggies 21-3 in bench points led by Galloway’s 13. The Hornets also scored 25 points off of 23 Aggie turnovers and they grabbed 22 offensive rebounds.

The Aggies opened the second half on a 14-5 run to take a 47-32 lead with 14:05 remaining in the game. N.C. A&T’s lead stood at 10 as late as the 11-minute mark of the second half before a 12-5 Hornets run cut the Aggies lead to 53-50.

“It’s hard to be perfect,’’ said Bibbs. “That’s why it doesn’t happen too often. But we are still in first place, and that’s a good thing. We don’t plan to give that up.”

Jameka Smith led the Hornets with 19 points and five assists. The Aggies will return to action Saturday afternoon at 2 when they face arch-rival Winston-Salem State. It will be the Aggies Pack The House Challenge Game.