SAVANNAH, Ga.-The North Carolina A&T men's basketball team couldn't complete a late rally against Savannah State on Monday evening at Tiger Arena as the Tigers defeated the Aggies 56-49.
"I thought our young men showed a lot of heart to fight back on the road from a 16, 15-point deficit in the second half. A couple plays here or there, we possibly could have finished it," said A&T head coach Cy Alexander who saw his team follow a two-game winning streak with a two-game losing streak.
The Aggies (13-14, 6-6) led by as much as six in the first half, but saw that early lead slip away against the Tigers (16-10, 10-2). The Tigers took a 33-21 lead at the half, and had a 16-point lead at 42-28 with 12:06 left in the game. But then the Aggies worked to cut into that cushion.
A layup by senior Austin Witter made ignited an 8-0 run by A&T. Junior guard Lamont Middleton scored four points during the run, and junior Jeremy Underwood capped the run with two free throws to move the Aggies to within four, 49-45, with 2:08 remaining.
Adrian Powell kept the rally going with a steal. He was later fouled by Khiry White, but Powell made just one of two free throws to pull the Aggies to within three with 1:52 to go. Witter, who had two blocks in the game, picked up a huge swat to give the Aggies possession. But Jean Louisme could not connect on the jumper. From there, the Tigers made three free throws to make it a 52-46 game. Witter kept the Aggies alive with a 3-pointer with 16.3 seconds remaining.
But the Tigers closed the game out with free throws as they improved to 3-0 against the Aggies since joining the MEAC two seasons ago.
"After we played so well and fought so hard, in the last minute we had three unacceptable plays. We had a foul at the end that made no sense. So I was very disappointed in the last minute," Alexander said.
Middleton finished the game with nine points, while Powell and Witter had eight apiece. Powell also had a team-best four steals in the contest.
"We shot well from the free throw line and out-rebounded them, but it's hard to win when you shoot 27 percent from the field. It's hard to win," Alexander said.
Alexander said he now is looking to lead his team to take on another challenging opponent
"Savannah State is a good physical basketball team. There's a reason that they're 10-2. We've got to get our program to that level. That's what we're working toward. Now we've got to regroup and fight North Carolina Central," he said.
The Aggies will take on N.C. Central on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Durham.
"We've just got to work. We've got to take Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and prepare for Central and try to pull out a W," Alexander said.