EAST GREENSBORO (February 9, 2019) –In a season where there have been so many standout performances by various players on the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team, it was great to see fifth-year point guard Amari Hamilton get his turn in the spotlight.
And once Hamilton got his turn on the big stage, he owned it. Hamilton came off the bench to score a career-high 27 points on 9-for-9 shooting from the floor and 7-for-7 shooting from 3-point range leading the Aggies to an 82-52 blowout win over Delaware State Saturday evening at Corbett Sports Center.
Hamilton’s field goals made, and 3-point field goals made were also career highs. Hamilton led the Aggies to the season sweep of the Hornets (4-19, 1-9 MEAC) after N.C. A&T won 93-70 in Dover, Del., earlier this season. Saturday marked the fourth different time this season the Aggies have received 20 or more points from a reserve player this season.
Reserve freshman Tyrone Lyons also had a good night with nine points with season highs in rebounds (10) and assists (3). Nelson Nweke came off the bench to score a season-high 10 points to go along with six rebounds as the Aggies bench outscored DSU’s 48-11. Junior Ronald Jackson got his first start of the season and responded with 10 points and seven rebounds.
But the night belonged to Amari.
“Once I saw the first two go in, I was like tonight is the night,” said Hamilton. “(N.C. A&T head coach Jay Joyner) always says, ‘be ready, you never know when your name may be called.’”
Hamilton’s previous career high was 17 points at N.C. Central on Jan. 28, 2017. It Hamilton started his march toward toppling that figure early. Hamilton entered the game for the first time with 3:27 remaining in the first half with the Aggies leading 26-20. He hit his first 3-pointer a minute later giving the Aggies a 29-22 lead. That lead increased to 10 thanks to another Hamilton three. After the Hornets hit two free throws to get the lead back under double-digits, senior guard Milik Gantz got a steal, hurried the ball ahead to Lyons for a crowd-pleasing dunk to give the Aggies a 34-24 halftime lead.
“Tonight, I was ready once I stepped out on the court just seeing that we needed a spark offensively,” said Hamilton. “We’re really deep. You never know who may have it going on any given night. Being able to be the one to provide the spark means a lot to me.”
Without Hamilton on the floor, the Aggies were still able to expand their lead to open the second half. The Aggies opened the second on an 18-4 run thanks to numerous transition baskets. The Aggies scored 10 fastbreak points during the run to build the 52-30 lead with 11:19 remaining in the game.
“As a coach you have to evaluate where the team is and I thought over the last couple of years with me at the helm, we’ve been able to score in transition,” said Joyner. “But I’m studying film thinking we’re not getting any transition buckets, so emphasized this week trying to push the ball and we looked good doing it tonight.”
After a few slam dunks and layups, it was time for 3-point shooting again. Hamilton re-entered the game at the 11:07 mark and it was pure fun from there.
Hamilton started his onslaught with a long two before burying another 3-pointer to give the Aggies a 59-32 advantage. His next made three put the Aggies ahead by 30, 64-34, with 7:42 remaining in the game. The Aggies would lead by as many as 31 as Hamilton’s three with 4:17 remaining gave the Aggies a 74-43 advantage.
In addition to seeing Hamilton have the game of his life, the Aggies (12-11, 7-2 MEAC) received some good news from down south as the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats defeated Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference leader Norfolk State 84-76 at home to move the Aggies one game behind the Spartans (13-11, 8-1 MEAC) in the standings.
N.C. A&T returns to action 7:30 p.m., Monday at Corbett Sports Center as they face Maryland Eastern Shore for the second time this season.
“If we take care of home the rest of the way we should be in good shape,” said Joyner. “But it is just one game at a time. We have a short turnaround and have to prepare right away for Maryland Eastern Shore.”