WASHINGTON, D.C. - Jerry Eaves calls juniors Adrian Powell and Austin Witter his advantages. The 6-foot-6 Powell and the 6-foot-8 Witter can handle the ball, rebound, distribute, score and cause mismatches.
They did all those things Saturday afternoon to lead the Aggies to a 70-65 win over Howard at Burr Gymnasium. The win gives the Aggies (7-12, 2-2) their second straight conference win. Powell finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while Witter had four points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
"Austin Witter couldn't hit a shot tonight, but it's the best game he has ever played for me," said Eaves. "He boarded the ball in the paint, he blocked shots, he made good passes - he gave them problems all night."
Powell became a factor after Eaves told him he was a factor. The Aggies held a 36-26 lead early in the second half. The Bison put together a 19-5 over the next seven minutes to take a 45-41 lead. During the Bison's run, Eaves had to pull Powell after he committed an unwise foul and turnover.
"What are you doing? You're a better player than that," Eaves told his versatile forward as he came to the bench after being subbed. The message resonated.
After a 2 ½ minute break, Powell re-entered the game at the 11:08 mark of the second half. He promptly scored nine points in two minutes as the Aggies scored 11 consecutive points to take a 52-45 lead with eight minutes remaining.
"Adrian and Austin are excellent basketball players," said Eaves. "They can do so many things for us. Adrian is the type of player that just has to learn to maintain his focus game in and game out for 40 minutes. He is a tremendous young man and a tremendous player. If he works at it, he could truly take his game to another level."
Witter helped the Aggies take command of the game late. His two free throws were followed by a Nic Simpson steal and jumper that gave the Aggies a 56-49 lead. A Jeremy Underwood layup and a jumper by Jared Williams put the Aggies ahead by 11 with 5:10 remaining. N.C. A&T spent the rest of the game fending off Bison rallies.
Howard cut N.C. A&T's lead to three on a Tre Lee layup with nine seconds remaining, but Simpson free throws clinched the Aggies second straight win at Burr Gymnasium.
"I'm very pleased with my team. We had to get a game back after losing at home," said Eaves about the Aggies home loss to Bethune-Cookman on Jan. 7. "We came from behind in the second half. That's huge, especially on the road where they had all the momentum when they took the lead. When Adrian came back in the game, he settled down and hit some big shots. Lawrence Smith got us going early by hitting some shots. It was an overall team effort."
The Aggies placed four players in double figures as Powell, Smith and Marc Hill finished with 12 points. Simpson led the way with 13. Calvin Thompson led the Bison with 17 points and five assists. N.C. A&T led by as many as 10 in the first half before a 3-pointer and 3-point play helped Howard slice the Aggies lead to 32-26 at halftime. The Aggies head to Baltimore next weekend to face Morgan State on Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. Two days later, they will face Coppin State live on ESPNU at 7 p.m., in Baltimore.
The Aggies have several players from the Washington D.C., area...Sophomore point guard Jeremy Underwood and freshman forward Anthony Estes are from Washington, D.C...Senior point guard Marc Hill and junior forward Lawrence Smith are from nearby Bowie, Md., and junior wingman R.J. Buck is from Lusby, Md...The Aggies have won consecutive games at Howard for the first since the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons...Before the men's game, Howard honored its 1992 NCAA Tournament team...N.C. A&T head coach Jerry Eaves was a part of the ceremony because he was an assistant coach with the Bison that season...The Aggies outrebounded the Bison 40-31 on Saturday...The Aggies are 6-1 when they outrebound their opponents. Senior guard Nic Simpson is now 90 points shy of reaching 1,000 points for his career.