WASHINGTON, D.C. – North Carolina A&T missed out on its chance to pick up road win No. 2 by missing free throws in crucial spots as Howard defeated the Aggies 68-60 at Burr Gymnasium Monday night.
The Aggies fell to 1-14 on the road this season as they dropped their third straight game overall.
“I really believe if we could have taken the lead we could have taken control of the ballgame,” said A&T head coach Cy Alexander. “But every time we got close we miss two shots (at the line) or we miss the front end of a one-and-one or we miss the first and make the second. Every time.”
The Aggies were 25-for-35 from the line, but it was when they missed their free throws that caused the problems. Howard (6-17, 4-4 MEAC) took its biggest lead of the game, 44-35 with 12:21 remaining the game, thanks to two free throws form MEAC-leading scorer James Daniel.
A Khary Doby three, two Lamont Middleton free throws and transition layup from Middleton helped the Aggies cut the lead to four at 46-42. Senior point guard Jeremy Underwood had a chance to cut it two with two free throws but only made one of two. The Bison stretched its lead to 51-45 on a 3-point play from Daniel.
Three free throws helped A&T cut to three as Doby went to the line with a chance to cut Howard’s lead to one. But he missed both free throws, allowing the Bison to push its lead to four with a Prince Okoroh free throw.
The Aggies (7-16, 3-5 MEAC) did get the lead to one on several occasions, the final time on a Bruce Beckford layup to make it 56-55 with 3:57 to play. Solomon Mangum’s pull up jumper at the free throw line gave the Bison a three-point advantage. An untimely Underwood turnover and foul, his fifth of the game, put Howard up four with 3:13 remaining. The lead increased to 65-58 as Middleton made a steal and a layup with 39.9 seconds remaining to give the Aggies hope. But the Bison made free throws to earn the win.
“Late in the ball game those 50-50 balls didn’t go our away,” said Alexander. “We had a sure rebound go off of (Richaud Pack’s) hand. We had Underwood’s turnover where he thought he saw Bruce coming open and threw it away. It was just a combination of poor free throw shooting and turnovers that cost us this game.”
Middleton led A&T with 16 points. Pack scored all 15 of his points at the free throw line but was 0-for-7 from the floor.
Daniel led the Bison with 23 points as he made 14 of 16 free throws.
“This is the first game we didn’t step up at the free throw line and that really hurt us in my opinion,” said Alexander. “We had guys at the line that we wanted at the line, 70, 80-percent free throw shooters and we just didn’t hit them.”
The two teams were involved in 10 ties in the first half before the Bison was able to finally take the lead, 25-24, on two Daniel free throws with 2:32 remaining. A&T never saw the lead again as Daniel ended the first half on a 3-point play 1.3 seconds on the clock to give Howard a 31-28 halftime lead.
A&T is back action this Saturday as they face the Florida A&M Rattlers 6 p.m., at Corbett Sports Center.