ORANGEBURG, S.C.-Cy Alexander is used to seeing S.C. State defeat North Carolina A&T, after having led the Bulldogs to five titles in 16 seasons as their head coach. He just hasn't seen it from the Aggie bench in Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
The Bulldogs (5-18, 1-9) picked up their first conference win of the year, defeating the Aggies 72-70, Saturday evening on S.C. State's Senior Night.
"I congratulate South Carolina State on a well-played game. I thought their kids played really, really well and I thought we didn't play very smart," said Alexander. "I'm disappointed that we still haven't gotten it. We don't seem to get it. We got caught too much in their record, and I kept trying to emphasize that this was going to be a basketball war. It never sunk in."
The Aggies (13-13, 6-5) pulled within two points on a 3-pointer from the corner by senior Austin Witter with 2.5 seconds left. But after Khalif Toombs missed a pair of free throws, the Aggies missed their last-second Hail Mary shot. Witter finished the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Senior Jean Louisme led the team with 18 points and senior Adrian Powell had 11.
"I'm just disappointed that we can't seem to get past winning two in a row. It's perplexing to me," said Alexander, who had been hoping to pick up the team's third straight game on Saturday and to gain a better position in the conference standings.
The Aggies had a 37-36 lead in the first four minutes of the second half. The Bulldogs gained the upper hand on a pair of free throws by Darryl Palmer, and did not relinquish the advantage, even though the Aggies fought to stay within striking distance. Powell pulled A&T within one at 57-56 with 4:31 remaining on a layup. The Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run to build up a cushion. S.C. State led by as much as 10 with 1:10 remaining in the contest.
But junior Lamont Middleton scored on a 3-point play to cut the lead to six, six seconds later. A Jeremy Underwood layup moved the Aggies to within with a little less than a minute remaining. After a Bulldogs layup, Powell scored and Middleton made a pair of free throws to pull A&T within two with 37 seconds left. S.C. State's took a three-point lead on a free throw by Shaquiell Mitchell.
Despite the Aggies, momentum over the final minute, Middleton missed a 3-point attempt with 32 seconds left on the clock. A free throw by Devin Joint made it a 71-67 game. Freshman Khalid King, a good 3-point shooter entered the game, but missed from three. King then fouled Patrick Meyers, who got one free throw to make it a five-point game. Jeremy Underwood, who has hit big shots for A&T all season, also missed a three. Witter finally made a successful three for A&T with 2.5seconds left, bringing A&T to within a possession.
The Aggies will play at Savannah State on Monday at 8 p.m. at Tiger Arena, and will look to start a new winning streak against the Tigers. Alexander added that he'll be looking to his seniors to step up their performance and to play smart in the remaining games.
"It's going to be tough. We've got to regroup tomorrow and refocus and get ready to play," Alexander said. "The next five games, I'm putting it on the seniors."