HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama A&M concluded their preseason with an exhibition win over crosstown foe Oakwood, 95-79.
A&M got two baskets quickly but Edmond Steward answers with a 3. They kept it close through the first six minutes because of the 3-ball. That wasn’t the case for the rest of the opening period. The Bulldogs went into the break down 39-38 largely because of missed threes and the immediate interior. The ‘Dogs left 16 threes and 10 shots, layups or dunks in the paint up for grabs, missing out on what could’ve been 58 points.
The Ambassadors would take a 39-38 lead into the break.
AAMU seemed to get things together on a specific possession. With under 18 minutes to go Steward drives into the lane before jumping as if he were intending to shoot a jumper, but instead dumps it in to forward Jude Prophete on the low block. Prophete gets it to fall but the Bulldogs get it to Garrett Hicks quickly out of the inbound. Hicks stood three quarters of the way down the floor when he received the long pass, took a one-dribble pull-up three to make it 46-43. He’d hit two more big shots from deep throughout the second half to either extend or retake leads.
As the half would continue, Oakwood mistakes piled up. An A'drelin Robinson turnover at 11:35 to go in the second half rolled to head coach Wooderson Durosier in front of the Ambassador bench. Durosier picked up the ball and bounced it hard immediately in front of him with two hands three times, demonstrating his disappointment. It was as if he knew what was coming next. That turnover was the possession after A&M took the lead at 61-60 and the Bulldogs never lost the lead again.
Even in the win, it wasn’t pretty. As a team, the Bulldogs shot 39/90 from the floor (43%), including 9/32 (28%) from beyond the arc.
“Who shoots that bad and wins by 20?” asked head coach Otis Hughley, Jr, rhetorically. “That's pretty good, even if it was ugly. … [A&M players had] a lot of butterflies, (I) played a lot of kids trying to see what they have, giving everybody a chance to play. When you don't play with a solid, solid eight, that kind of thing can happen. But that was okay. I was willing to live with that. I was willing to trust and bet on the team and it turned out okay.”
Missing a lot of shots leaves rebounds available, and A&M was able to out-board the Ambassadors 49-36, including a commanding 26-7 margin on the offensive glass. They also created - and capitalized - on turnovers, forcing 25 on 18 steals and scoring 26 points on those takeaways.
Hughley said he learned of his team’s “resolve” from this performance. “How they can come together, how they can dig down and fight when it gets tough,” he said. “And they really, really, really played well down the stretch.”
The challenge Oakwood presented, even as a smaller team competing in a non-NCAA league, in addition to the crosstown rivalry feel to the game made the event worth it, Hughley said.
“There was nothing to lose for them,” he said. “Man, we got their best shot, and that's what I wanted … and I'm glad for it.”
He added that he’d like to see this matchup continue.
“I want to do that every year,” he said. “That's a good start for us.”
A&M begins the regular season Nov. 10 against North Alabama at T.E. Elmore Gymnasium. The new on-campus arena is not yet ready for in-person events. Oakwood is back in action tomorrow against Middle Georgia State.