RICHMOND, KY – A slow start and several opening half miscues made it tough for the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team to overcome an 18-point halftime deficit, causing it to fall 84-73 to Eastern Kentucky, Wednesday evening at McBrayer Arena.
“I thought we played a really good second half but we dug ourselves in a hole in the first half,” A&T head coach Cy Alexander said. “I liked the fact that our young men kept playing. Eastern Kentucky is a very good team and hopefully we’re learning from these road losses. We have to take positives from these games so when conference starts we’ll be road tested and ready.”
The Aggies (3-8) who have yet to secure its first road win of the season were led by forward Bruce Beckford and guard Lamont Middleton with 21 points and six rebounds each. Beckford exploded for the Aggies in the second half, scoring 19 points on an 8-for-14 shooting performance from the field. Middleton shot 6-for-12 from the field and was 8-for-10 from the free throw line. Guard Richaud Pack recorded 18 points and finished with a game-high seven rebounds.
“As a team we came out a little slow in the first half and we were waiting for them to throw the first punch but we have to be more aggressive and set the tone early,” Beckford explained. “At halftime coach just laid everything on the line and told us to play hard and that’s what we did in the second half.”
The Aggies won the battle on the glass 36-18 and in the paint 36-26 but weren’t able to stop the Colonels (8-4) behind the arc as they were 13-for-28.
Despite a sluggish first half, the Aggies found life in the second half and made a great attempt to spark a comeback. Beckford gave the Aggies the lift they needed and scored 10 points in just under five minutes to cut EKU’s lead to 53-38 with 15:07 left in the game. Pack delivered for A&T with back-to-back baskets with a 3-pointer and a layup to close in on the Colonels 61-48 lead at the 11:47 mark.
As soon as the Aggies were getting in reach of EKU’s edge the Colonels would hit another shot from behind the arc to push them further from the lead.
However A&T finally found some production from downtown as Middleton drained a three with 6:22 left to slice the Colonels advantage to 69-58. After both teams exchanged buckets, Middleton fought his way into the lane and drove to the basket as A&T trailed 74-65 with 4:18 left to play. A free throw from Beckford got the Aggies within eight, but EKU countered with a layup from Marcus Lewis with 3:19 remaining to push its lead to 76-66.
With just under two minutes remaining the Aggies stayed composed as Middleton cruised to the basket for a layup from Jeremy Underwood to nip at the Colonels 80-72 lead. But Eastern Kentucky’s steady 3-point performance answered from the hands of Lewis to drive it to an 83-72 lead to seal the game.
The Colonels (8-4) scored seven straight points to open the game. Nearly four minutes into the game, A&T scored its first basket off a layup from Beckford. EKU used several runs and continued to halt the Aggies on both ends of the court to run ahead to a 21-4 advantage with a 3-pointer from Timmy Knipp with 12:25 remaining. Pack continued to lead the Aggies in the first half as they headed to halftime down 44-26.
Eastern Kentucky also added three players in double-figure scoring and was led by Lewis with 20 points. Glenn Cosey finished with 19 and Corey Walden added 10 points.
A&T will travel to Saint Louis on Saturday, Dec. 21 to face the Billikens at 3 p.m.