NEWARK, N.J. - Guard Lamont Middleton and forward Austin Witter made the best of their respective homecomings as they led the North Carolina A&T men's basketball team to a 76-71 win over New Jersey Institute of Technology at the Fleisher Athletic Center. The win was the Aggies first non-conference road win over a non-HBCU since they defeated DePaul on Nov. 24, 2007.
Middleton, a Bronx, N.Y., native, scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, while Witter (Princeton Junction, N.J.) finished with a career-high 13 rebounds and eight blocks. Witter was one block shy of tying the school record, which was set by his former teammate Thomas Coleman on Jan. 14, 2008 against Coppin State.
"His family was at the game, and he did a nice job of coming out with a lot of effort tonight," said A&T head coach Cy Alexander about Witter's performance. "That's the type of performance we need from him at all times. He was a very strong defensive presence in the middle. Plus, he was on the boards, which allowed us to get out in transition."
While Witter made things complicated for the Highlanders on the defensive end, Middleton's aggressiveness on offense helped the Aggies overcome a 41-36 halftime deficit. The Aggies (4-6) outscored the Highlanders 22-6 in a 12-minute span between the 18-minute and six-minute marks of the second half. Middleton's 3-pointer with 7:39 to play gave the Aggies a 57-50 lead. He then hit two free throws to put the Aggies ahead by nine.
After a P.J. Miller free throw for NJIT, Middleton drove the lane and found a wide open Adrian Powell in the corner. Powell's three gave the Aggies their biggest lead of the game at 62-51 with 6:11 to play as the Highlanders were forced to call timeout.
"It was a very good homecoming for Lamont too," said Alexander, who saw Middleton score tie a season high while dishing out four assists. Middleton also made 12 of 14 free throws.
"There shouldn't be a game he doesn't some kind of way get 10 to 15 shots the way he can attack the basket," Alexander added. "He's very good at drawing fouls. I thought him and (guard) Jeremy Underwood stepped up to the challenge defensively as well."
Over the first 14 minutes of the second half, the Highlanders (5-5) scored only 10 points. Alexander credited his assistant coach Odell Witherspoon for an excellent scouting report and the Aggies down-the-ball screens, which pinned Highlanders to the sidelines, where the Aggies were able to trap. The Highlanders shot just 34.3 percent in the second half.
Three-point shooter Ryan Miller had 23 points, but the Highlanders other two prolific guards - Miller and Chris Flores - were only a combined 7-for-23 as Miller had six and Flores had 15. NJIT did make a run as Woods' jumper from the free throw line cut the Aggies lead to 69-64 with 1:40 remaining. But the Aggies kept NJIT from getting any closer by hitting 3 out of 4 free throws. After Quentin Bastian scored on a layup, the Aggies broke the Highlanders' press and clinched the win as Witter broke open for a wide open dunk.
A&T's Powell had 16 and DaMetrius Upchurch added 11 off the Aggies' bench. The Aggies win was their second on the season. They only had four road wins last season.
"This was a great road win for us because this team has beaten some good teams," said Alexander about a NJIT team that beat Army. "I thought our young men really stepped up to the challenge in the second half defensively."
The Aggies will head up the street to face Seton Hall Sunday afternoon at 1.
Notes: Lamont Middleton tied a season-high with 24 points...He also made a season-high 12 free throws on a season-high 14 attempts...A&T's Adrian Powell has scored 45 points in his last two games...The Aggies played for the first time in 12 days...The Aggies held their fifth opponent to under 40 percent shooting.