LEXINGTON, Ky. – North Carolina A&T ended an historic season Thursday night with a 79-48 loss to No. 1 overall seed Louisville in the second round Midwest regional of the NCAA tournament played at Rupp Arena.
Freshman Bruce Beckford led the Aggies with 12 points as the season came to an end with the Aggies finishing the season 20-17. The A&T men are scheduled to return to campus at 9:10 a.m., Friday.
“This was the quickest team for its size, and, you know, I was told by several coaches that had played against Louisville about the strength and quickness of the guards,” said Alexander about the Louisville starting backcourt of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. “It's hard to simulate that in 24 hours. In a hotel ballroom, it's kind of hard to simulate when we walked through last night. But, I told Rick that I'm pulling for him to win the national championship. He's got a Final Four quality team. They made shots and they're as good as anybody in the country when they're going.”
The Cardinals shot 57 percent from the floor and forced the Aggies into a season-high 27 turnovers. Louisville scored 34 points off of those turnovers. Smith led the way with 23 points and eight steals. Siva had 12 points and four assists.
There were times on Thursday when the Aggies looked strong. They trailed 6-4 at the end of the first media timeout. The Cardinals built their lead to 25-7 until consecutive 3-pointers by Adrian Powell and Jean Louisme cut the lead to 28-14 with 6:29 to play in the first half. But the lead ballooned to 21, 40-21, on Montreal Harrell dunk with 5:09 to play. Louisme’s three took it back down to 14 four minutes later. The Aggies had a chance to cut into the lead even further, but a missed Lamont Middleton jumper turned into another Louisville dunk as they led 47-31 at the half.
The Aggies never got the lead under 14 in the second half as the Cardinals improved to 30-5 and will move on to Colorado State.
Meanwhile, the list of accomplishments from the 2012-13 will not easily be forgotten. They captured the imagination of Aggies nationwide. From watch parties to social media, the Aggies run brought out the Pride in every Aggie.
“I'm competitive,” said senior Adrian Powell. “I'm going to think about the loss because I'm a competitor and I hate losing. At the end of the day we accomplished something that nobody has done in multiple years. Those images will be played over in my head and we won the championship. Nobody expected to us make it that far in our conference. We shocked everybody and proved everyone wrong.”
The 2012-13 Aggies became the first team to play in the NCAA Tournament in 18 years. They also became the first set of Aggies to win an NCAA tournament game after nine previous failures. Their 20 wins were the most since the 1987-88 season. In addition, they will be forever known as the 2013 MEAC champions.
A&T will say goodbye to seven seniors – Powell, Austin Witter, Louisme, DaMetrius Upchurch, Lawrence Smith, Dominique Behonh and R.J. Buck – while bringing back two starters in Beckford and Middleton. Key reserve Jeremy Underwood is a rising senior.
“I want to particularly thank our seven seniors who are on track to graduate and hopefully getting here will certainly enhance our university's visibility as well as enhance our basketball recruiting,” said Alexander who signed three players early and plans to add more to replace seven seniors. “It's going to enhance, first of all, our recruiting. Secondly, I told Jeremy Underwood and Lamont Middleton that they are our two leaders, two senior guards coming back, and they have to push all our incoming recruits very, very hard because they now know what it takes to win the championship.”