GREENSBORO - The North Carolina A&T men's basketball team looked defensive Thursday night. The Aggies had 13 steals and blocked 11 shots in a 78-47 blowout exhibition win over CIAA Division II Fayetteville State at Corbett Sports Center.
Senior guard Jean Louisme led the Aggies with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting from off the bench. Junior College transfer Lamont Middleton had 13 points, three assists and three steals in his first game in an Aggies uniform. Also making his Aggies debut was head coach Cy Alexander. Fans got their first look at the Alexander era after he was named to the position in April.
It was evident to the excellent crowd assembled at Corbett on Saturday and it has long been revealed to the players as to what Alexander wants to see.
"They've brought into our theme, 'If you want to play, you have to play defense,'" Alexander said. "In order to defend, you've got to play hard and you've got to play smart."
The Aggies will have two more warm up games before starting the regular season at home on Nov. 9 versus Greensboro College at 8 p.m. The Aggies will play their annual Blue-Gold inter-squad scrimmage Saturday evening at 6:30 as a night cap to the A&T home football game against Florida A&M at 1:30 p.m. On Sunday, they will conclude their preseason with a 5 p.m., exhibition game against Barber Scotia at Corbett. Both games are open to the public.
"I was glad to see the type of crowd we had tonight," Alexander said. "I hope they come out like that again on Saturday and Sunday and for the rest of the season. That is the type of support we're going to need."
Aside from the crowd, the Aggies had a few more things that may have been motivating them Thursday night. The MEAC released its preseason predictions Thursday afternoon and the Aggies were picked to finish ninth, and there were no Aggies on the preseason first or second team. Those are pretty good motivators for a team with seven seniors.
"Our toughest challenge is to change the mindset of our seniors from losing to winning," Alexander said. "That's going to take an attitude change. It's incomprehensible to me that North Carolina A&T men's basketball has gone 15 years without a winning season. This was the most dominant program in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in my early years as a basketball coach. In order to get back, we have to help the seniors understand how hard they have to work, both physically and mentally, to go from losers to winners."
A&T looked like winners from the start against the Broncos. The Aggies never trailed and led by as many as 35. The Aggies jumped out to a 14-2 lead behind six early points from Middleton. The Aggies grew their lead to 46-24 on an Austin Witter with 1:30 remaining in the first half. The Broncos did cut the Aggies lead to 14, 49-35, in the second half, but two Louisme jumpers and a Middleton layup helped the Aggies recapture control of the game.
The Aggies held the Broncos to 29.6 percent shooting and outrebounded them 55-35.