LAS VEGAS-It took some extra time to determine the mid-major champion at the Global Sports Classic on Saturday afternoon. The North Carolina A&T men's basketball lost in overtime 54-50 to Jacksonville State at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
"I thought it was a very tough game. Both teams battled," said A&T head coach Cy Alexander. "I thought our kids learned today what it meant to be in a championship game and the level of effort that you have to give. As we move forward, we've got to draw from this. The little mistakes that we made, we've got to learn from them and not make them as we move forward into MEAC competition. We grinded in this game, we just didn't know how to finish."
For the Aggies, the difference came in allowing second shot opportunities and missing free throws. That allowed the Gamecocks to come back from behind and tie it late in the second half.
A&T made it a 45-43 game on a 3-pointer by Louisme with just over a minute remaining in regulation. With under a minute left, Tarvin Gaines missed a 3-pointer, but the Gamecocks collected the offensive rebound, and a foul by DaMetrius Upchurch brought Darion Rackley to the line with 42 seconds left. He hit both free throws to tie the game.
"They shoot a crazy shot, the ball bounces and we don't do everything humanly possible to get that ball. Hopefully we learn from that," Alexander said. "We allowed them to get a big second shot late in the game. If we get that loose ball, then now they've got to foul us. We had a five-point lead and twice they came up with second shot opportunities. If you're going to win a championship, you've got to make that effort, that play. That's the thing that I was most disappointed in."
A traveling call on the Aggies gave the ball back to the Gamecocks with 11 seconds left. JSU drove down the court, and Boggs missed a dunk as the ball bounced off the rim to send the game in to overtime.
In overtime, the Aggies tied the game at 49 on a jumper by Louisme. Rackley hit a free throw to take a 50-49 lead with 3:01 remaining. After a pair of turnovers, the Aggies rebounded the ball after Powell's 3-point attempt fell short. Boggs fouled Upchurch on his way to the basket, and Upchurch made one of two free throws to tie it at 50. A Lawrence Smith foul led to two made free throws by Brian Williams that gave Jacksonville State a 52-50 lead with 49 seconds remaining.
Aggies guard Lamont Middleton tried to tie the game once more, but Nick Cook slammed the ball out of Middleton's hands as he reached up to take a shot. Williams collected the final two points of the game, after making it back to the line on a Louisme foul. The Aggies missed both of their final shots as time expired.
"What I told our young men to do was to let this hurt all the way to Greensboro. Once we get to Greensboro, it's got to be done. We've got to start preparing for UNC Greensboro. This is a big week for us coming up, big inter-city rival, and first conference game," Alexander said.
The Aggies will take on cross-town rivals UNC Greensboro on Wednesday at the Greensboro Coliseum at 7 p.m., before hosting archrival N.C. Central on Saturday at 4 p.m.