GREENSBORO – Not having Richaud Pack’s 17.5 points, 46 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting from 3-point range against North Carolina A&T’s most heated rivalry game played a big factor Saturday night.
N.C. Central remained on fire with a 73-55 win over the Aggies at Corbett Sports Center. It was the Eagles’ 13th straight win as they improved to 21-5 overall and 12-1 in the MEAC. The Aggies dropped their fourth straight to fall to 8-20 overall and 4-9 in the MEAC.
“I’m not going to use any excuses but you saw it out there,” said A&T head coach Cy Alexander. “Any time you have someone shooting almost 40 percent from three not in your lineup, it hurts.”
Pack, the Aggies leading scorer, missed Saturday’s game after injuring his knee Monday night at S.C. State. His absence was mainly felt on the offensive end where the Aggies shot just 29 percent from the field. Defensively, the Aggies had a hard time guarding Central’s guards. Senior point guard Emanuel Chapman had eight assists and only two turnovers, while guards Jeremy Ingram and Alfonzo Houston went to the free throw line a combined 33 times.
Ingram finished with 30 points on 8-for-16 shooting and Houston had 21 on 15-for-18 shooting from the free throw line.
“We put them on the line 51 times, which is way too much,” said Alexander. “We were not sitting down and sliding our feet and getting into our proper rotations. It’s been a problem for us all season.”
The Aggies did look a lot more comfortable against the Eagles on Saturday than they did in Durham on Jan. 22 when the Eagles came away with a 40-point win. Alexander attributed it to being able to play in front of a sellout crowd that was “pro Aggie.” N.C. Central led throughout the game, but the Aggies had their moments.
Each time it appeared the Aggies were ready to make a run, however, the Eagles seemed to have a response. After A&T trailed by 12 at halftime, Bruce Beckford helped the Aggies cut the lead to 37-30 with a baseline jumper two minutes into the second half. But NCCU hit four consecutive free throws to put the margin at 11.
Five minutes later, Lamont Middleton had the lead down to nine again, 44-35, with a jump shot. Houston answered with two more NCCU free throws to push the lead back to 11. Waylan Siverand took a pass from Khary Doby and electrified the crowd with a dunk to bring the Eagles lead back down to nine. But once again, NCCU’s ability to get to the free throw line slowed down any Aggies momentum as Ingram hit a pair of free throws to push the advantage to double figures again.
A&T’s last real threat came with 7:02 remaining in the game as sophomore Ahmad Abdullah hit a 3-pointer to bring the Aggies to within nine, 55-46. Two more free throws from Ingram, a 3-point play from Ramon Eaton and a dagger 3-pointer by Ingram put the Aggies away for good as NCCU took a 63-47 lead with 4:27 to play.
“We made too many bad decisions with the basketball when we had chance to make runs,” said Alexander. “We rushed and did not take our time and work the ball around to see if we could get it inside. We just made poor decisions.”
Beckford and Middleton led the Aggies with 15 points apiece. The Aggies are now 0-4 against the Eagles at Corbett Sports Center since the Eagles rejoined the conference during the 2010-11 season. A&T will try to end its recent slide, Saturday, March 1 when they face Savannah State at 6 p.m., at Corbett.
Pack will be reevaluated to see if he can play on March 1.
“Right now I'm concerned about winning a game to build a little momentum going into the tournament,” said Alexander, referring to the MEAC tournament March 10-16. “If we keep losing we're going to go in there on a downslope. But if we can win the next two out of three or the next three out of three, we've got a little momentum.
I'm not going to be negative because it's not the time to be negative. We're going to give them constructive criticism. We're teaching them why we need to do this or that to be successful. Being negative is not the answer at this point and time in the season.”