GREENSBORO – Richaud Pack has played in many different arenas and gymnasium. But the Florida International University transfer seems to have a special liking for the rims at Corbett Sports Center. Pack had another marvelous night at Corbett, scoring 22 points on 11-for-11 shooting from the line to lead the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team to a 66-55 win over Delaware State Monday night in front of a nationally-televised audience watching on ESPNU.
“I think you play with a lot more confidence when you have your own crowd behind you,” said Pack. “We’ve looked better the last two games than we’ve looked all season.”
The Aggies (6-12, 2-1 MEAC) have now put together their first two-game winning streak of the season thanks in part to playing their last two games at home. A&T is 4-1 at Corbett this season with Pack leading the way, shooting 54.7 percent from the floor, hitting 12-for-24 from 3-point range and averaging 21.0 points at home this season.
“Free throws are a big part of my scoring,” Pack said. “I notice when I’m aggressive in getting to the line, I can contribute a lot more.”
Pack’s contributions were needed down the stretch because for the second time in three nights a team staged a late rally after the Aggies held a lead of 20 or more. NJIT rallied from a 26-point deficit on Saturday to lose by six and the Hornets (4-14, 0-6 MEAC) were down by 21 three minutes into the second half.
“That’s the way our season has been,” said A&T coach Cy Alexander. “We’ve allowed teams to get back in games all year. We go through these mental droughts offensively and defensively. We go through droughts that allow us to inevitably lose a lead or get further behind. It’s a growth process. We’ll work our way through it as we continue to develop this team.”
The Hornets went at a faster pace in the second half offensively, relied on full court pressure and were fortunate to see the Aggies go cold from the field in their effort to cut into A&T’s lead. Nick Doyle’s jumper with 9:59 to play moved the Hornets to within nine at 50-41. Pack responded by knocking down a three in transition to put the Aggies ahead by double figures again. A&T would maintain that double-digit lead until the 4:21 mark when Doyle hit another jumper to slice the lead to 59-50.
A little more than a minute later, Tayshawn Bell hit a 3-pointer to make it 62-55. But on DSU’s next possession, Doyle wasn’t able to hit another jumper and Pack was eventually fouled. He went to the foul line and netted another two free throws to ice the game for A&T.
“I think we played with a lot more confidence tonight,” said Pack. “We got the crowd behind us early because we had a lot of support tonight.”
Pack may have very well been encouraged by what was clearly the most attended game at Corbett this season. An electrifying Corbett crowd helped the Aggies get off to a 26-13 lead as senior point Jeremy Underwood knocked down a three with 5:22 remaining in the first half. A&T grew its lead to 15 on a Khary Doby 3-pointer at the 2:30 mark of the first half. Two Lamont Middleton free throws gave A&T a 36-20 advantage at halftime.
“We played together. I thought we played hard for about 30 minutes. I thought we played with confidence the whole game,” said Alexander. “I don’t know how smart we played. We ended up with 12 turnovers because their pressure bothered us some in the second half. But we shared the basketball and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing.”
The Aggies have a tough stretch of games ahead. After Monday they will have one day of rest before having to head into a hostile environment in Durham to face archrival N.C. Central at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday. The Aggies then return home to face Morgan State on Saturday (6 p.m.) and Coppin State on Monday (8 p.m.). The combined MEAC record for the Aggies next three opponents is 10-3.
“We have a big game on Wednesday,” said Pack. “That’s all I’m looking forward to, going in Wednesday and trying to get a win on the road. It will be a big crowd and they’ll really be into it. I think we need to adjust, handle pressure and stay poised.”