DOVER, Del. - They don't have a fancy nickname like the "Aggie Three" or the "The Three From A&T" .
But in order for the North Carolina A&T men's basketball team to be successful, it must have major contributions from seniors Adrian Powell and Jean Louisme and junior Lamont Middleton. That didn't happen on Monday night, resulting in a 53-44 loss to Delaware State at Memorial Hall.
The Aggies (11-12, 4-4 MEAC) went 1-1 on their swing through Maryland Eastern Shore and Delaware State, but failed to score 50 points in either game. Louisme, a senior guard out of Fort Myers, Fla., led the Aggies with 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting. But Powell had three points on 1-for-10 shooting, and Middleton finished with 12 points but had a 4-for-14 night from the field.
"Primarily, they have to score for us every night," said A&T head coach Cy Alexander about his top three leading scorers. "When we only get one out of three, the chances of us being successful are diminished."
Alexander was also dismayed with their defensive effort. The 23-year veteran head coach thought they allowed their woes on offense affect their play on the opposite end. As a consequence, a game that was tied at with seven minutes to play, swung heavily in Delaware State's favor.
'I thought we got outplayed," said Alexander.
Middleton pulled the Aggies to within three, 40-37, on a layup with 4:09 remaining. Ninety seconds later, Delaware State sophomore guard Tahj Tate went into the lane, missed a layup, was able to grab an offensive rebound among the Aggies post players, get fouled and score on a layup. His free throw gave the Hornets a 43-37 lead.
Junior guard Jeremy Underwood was able to cut into the lead with two free throws, but on the Hornets (10-11, 5-2 MEAC) next trip, Amere May was easily able to get into the lane and score. Middleton again answered, this time with a 3-pointer to put the Aggies down 45-42 with 1:18 to play. But May put the Aggies away with a 3-pointer and a free throw that extended the Hornets lead to seven with 53 seconds remaining.
It was an overall tough shooting night for A&T, who shot just 29.4 percent from the field and 7-for-24 from 3-point range. The Hornets also blocked five shots.
"I thought we got out played," said Alexander. "On those times when we did attack the middle, we didn't attack it with a lot of confidence. We were very tentative when we got the ball in the paint, and they blocked a couple of shots because of it."
What will help remedy what the Aggies lack in the middle is the return of freshman center Bruce Beckford. Beckford, who left the Aggies Jan. 19 game against Howard with back problems, returned to the lineup for the first time in two games on Monday. He only played 18 minutes, took one shot and grabbed two rebounds.
"We have to get him ready to play," said Alexander. "Although he was physically ready to play tonight, he hasn't been practicing. His timing is off, but we've got to get him ready to play, starting now. I thought before he got hurt, he was playing really well for a freshman."
As well as Beckford has played, winning MEAC Rookie of the Week twice this season, Alexander knows it is his nickname-less trio that must produce for the Aggies to win consistently. The Aggies will try to get back to .500 on Saturday when they face Bethune-Cookman at 4 p.m., at Corbett Sports Center.
"We have eight more of these," said Alexander as he did the math in his head of the remaining games on the Aggies schedule. "We have to get healthy and make a run in February and March, so we can be playing our best basketball going into the (MEAC) tournament."
The Aggies jumped out to a 12-5 lead on Monday thanks to Louisme who scored their first 12 points. But the Hornets closed to within one, 22-21, at the half thanks to a Nick Doyle 3-pointer. May led the Hornets with 15 points.