SAVANNAH, Ga. – The North Carolina A&T coaching staff was away from the A&T men’s basketball players on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. It showed on Saturday night as Savannah State defeated the Aggies 73-48 at Tiger Arena.
The Aggies (8-18, 4-7 MEAC) were given their customary Tuesday off of this week. Then a snow storm blanketed the Piedmont area on Wednesday and Thursday, shutting down all activities on A&T’s campus, including men’s basketball practice.
To add insult to injury, the Aggies were trapped in a two-hour traffic jam on their way to Savannah, Ga., on Friday because a tractor-trailer caught on fire. The delay caused A&T to get in late, therefore, A&T head coach Cy Alexander reduced practice by an hour.
“The weather really put a bug-a-boo on us,” Alexander said. “I’m not making any excuses but not being able being able to practice because of the weather just took us out of our rhythm. We were definitely out of rhythm defensively, but we also gave a poor effort. Once again, we allowed a team to shoot 50 percent.”
The Aggies bad week was compounded by a Monday loss to Bethune-Cookman, in which they allowed the Wildcats to shoot 58 percent in the second half of a 72-71 loss at Corbett. On Saturday, the Tigers jumped out to a 14-5 lead by hitting 6 of 9 shots over the first six minutes of the game. The Aggies scored the next five points, highlighted by a Richaud Pack 3-pointer that cut the lead to 14-10.
It was an uphill climb from there for A&T. The Tigers (9-16, 7-4 MEAC) outscored the Aggies 20-4 over the next nine minutes to take a 34-14 lead with 5:21 remaining in the first half. The remainder of the half didn’t go A&T’s way either. It took a Denzel Keyes layup to help the Aggies go into the locker room down 43-20.
“We’re going through a rough patch right now. We’ve run into a lot of bad luck,” said Alexander. “You just have to weather the storm, stay positive and hang in there. Things will get better. It’s not cloudy every day. I’m a very optimistic person.”
A&T has lost five out of its last and dropped to 1-15 on the road this season. Lamont Middleton led A&T with 16 points. Pack added 15. Sophomore Bruce Beckford returned to the lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury and finished with four points and five rebounds.
Savannah State guard Deven Williams led all scorers with 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Jyles Smith added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to go along with his five blocked shots. Joshua Montgomery also had a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards.
Alexander will take his Aggies to S.C. State, a place where he spent 16 seasons, to play the Bulldogs on Monday night at 8.
“We have to regroup – in one day – and get ready for South Carolina State,” said Alexander. “Then we can go back and hopefully be able to practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week to get our rhythm back.”