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KENNESAW — I graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2002, and on plenty of Monday nights and Saturday afternoons during my four-year tenure, I sat on the bleachers behind the bench with Ant, Mike and Rob, cheering for the men’s basketball team at the older version of the Corbett Sports Center.
Not that I’m proud to mention it but some time has passed since I’ve seen the Aggies’ men’s team play up close and personal. But that drought gladly came to an end on the Thursday before Christmas 2016 at the Kennesaw State University Convocation Center, where for the first time I covered an A&T basketball game while being seated courtside.
As a result of nearly oversleeping, traffic and traveling distance, I only got to witness the second half of the game. But thankfully, it was just a two-point game (29-27 advantage A&T) at the break and things would be decided in the final 20 minutes.
But in that time frame, the 3-point shooting of Kendrick Ray (34 points) proved to be the deciding factor in the Aggies’ 11th straight loss, a 68-60 setback to the Owls.
Ray, a 6-2 shooting guard, nailed four of his seven shots from the arc in the second half to neutralize the versatility of junior Sam Hunt, who scored all 16 of his points after halftime.
With 13:50 remaining, A&T saw its last lead when James Whitaker sunk two foul shots for a 39-38 score. Then on the other end, Ray drilled a shot from deep 19 seconds later to place Kennesaw State (4-9) ahead for good. Nearly a minute later. Ray, who scored 21 points in the second half, connected on another 3-pointer to extend the Owls’ margin to 44-39.
After that shot, Hunt made a jumper for his first points of the contest and almost single-handedly kept the Aggies (1-11) within striking distance the rest of the way. The 6-2 guard and native of Greensboro scored his team’s final 10 points.
With 4:04 left, Hunt nailed a 3-pointer to pull A&T within 60-58 but Johannes Nielsen (11 points) drained back-to-back jumpers and a pair of free throws to rebuild the Owls’ lead for good and eventually end their four-game losing streak.
Aubrey Williams had 10 points and 12 rebounds for Kennesaw, which shot 18-of-24 (75 percent) from the foul line.
Eliel Gonzalez scored 13 points and Nick Reese added nine for the Aggies, who outscored the Owls 28-14 in the paint.