GREENSBORO – An abundance of 3-pointers went through the nets Saturday night at Corbett Sports Center. In the end, the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team hit two more threes than New Jersey Institute of Technology and came away with a much-needed 88-82 home win.
Richaud Pack led A&T (5-12) with 30 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field and 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point range. Pack matched his season high from the Aggies’ season opener against Greensboro College when also had 30 in Corbett. Pack’s incredible night also included eight assists and five rebounds. Jeremy Underwood hit a career-high five threes, missing only one, to finish the game with 19 points.
The two teams combined to hit 22 3-pointers with the Aggies hitting 12. A&T hit all of its threes in the first 35 minutes of the game. The Highlanders (8-12) hit nearly half of theirs in the final five minutes.
It was a Pack 3-pointer that gave A&T its largest lead of the night at 83-57 with 4:48 remaining. A combination of the Aggies going to a young bench that includes 10 freshmen and freshman NJIT guard Damon Lynn getting hot from beyond 20 feet helped the Highlanders stage a rally.
Lynn began his assault by hitting a 23-footer to cut the Aggies lead to 85-69. After an Aggies turnover, Tim Coleman dribbled into the lane before turning around and passing the ball to an eager Lynn waiting to take another three. He connected to get the Highlanders to within 13. A&T turned it over again on its next possession, allowing for another Lynn three to cut it to 85-75 with 47.9 seconds remaining.
“We got careless with the basketball, and we had several turnovers against their pressure,” said A&T head coach Cy Alexander. “Damon Lynn made some big-time shots toward the end, but it was more us and our lack of focus against pressure. I was trying to give some of the younger guys a chance to play to get them some experience as we move down the road in conference, and they didn’t handle the pressure very well.”
Alexander replaced his youngsters with his veterans after a 30-second timeout. But another Aggies turnover led to a Terrence Smith layup that cut the lead to eight. Pack would hit one of two free throws before Lynn connected on another three with 29 seconds remaining, his fourth over the final five minutes, as the Highlanders moved to within six at 86-80. After two missed free throws by A&T sophomore forward Bruce Beckford, Lynn tried again to make the Aggie faithful at Corbett a little nervous, but this time his three rimmed out.
Odera Nweke grabbed the offensive board and gave Montana Mayfield a shot at it, but he also missed his three as A&T freshman Michael Briscoe grabbed the rebound and handed it off to senior Lamont Middleton. Middleton hit two free throws to clinch the win.
“Lamont Middleton had seven assists tonight,” said Alexander about the junior college transfer who also had eight points and four rebounds. “He didn’t have his normal double figures, but he shared the ball.”
Alexander was also impressed with the minutes junior Waylan Siverand gave the Aggies off the bench and the play of starting center Bryan Akinkugbe, who had a career-high five blocks, was 4-for-5 from the floor, scored eight points and had five rebounds.
But in a game multiple great performance, Pack stood out from the crowd. He took control of the game early. He had an assist, two rebounds and a three within the first five minutes of the game. In the final minute of the first half he connected with Siverand on a fastbreak to give the Aggies a 37-21 lead. He then hit two free throws to give A&T a 40-25 halftime lead.
“I thought he had a great night,” said Alexander. “He had a great week of preparation. He shot the ball well every day in practice and he shot it great today in shootaround. He didn’t miss a shot in shootaround. I’m so glad it carried over from 12 noon to 7 o’clock tonight.”
Alexander hopes his hot hand carries over into Monday as well. The Aggies will play Delaware State in a nationally-televised contest on ESPNU at 7 p.m., at Corbett. A&T is asking fans to wear gold for a Gold Out Night. Including Delaware State game, the Aggies will play four games in seven days.
“It will be a big test for us,” said Alexander about the tough stretch. “The good thing is we’re home thee out four, and we only have to go an hour up the road for a rivalry game in Durham. So it’s not like we’re going to (Washington) D.C., or Florida.”