The men’s basketball team’s addiction to turnovers made a close game out of a blowout. Fortunately, Morgan State matched the Rattlers’ generosity.
Led by DeMarcus Wilkins’ rediscovered shooting touch, a defense that forced 26 Bears’ giveaways and a strong second half in the paint from Jermaine Hill, the Rattlers survived 25 turnovers and poor free throw shooting to hold on for a 72-66 win Saturday.
“It wasn’t a thing of beauty,” said head coach Mike Gillespie. “Still, I’d rather be ugly and successful than pretty and lose.”
Up 59-46 late in the second half and seemingly in control, the Rattlers’ suffered through some sloppy possessions, throwing the ball away four times in a two minute stretch.
The Bears, seeking their first win of the season, edged as close as 67-64 on a layup by Cedric Barrow with 29 seconds left. After Dominque Jackson hit 1 of 2 on consecutive trips to the line, Wilkins, FAMU’s leading scorer with 19, sealed the game with a pair of free throws.
In recent weeks, Gillespie has emphasized feeding the post. The Rattlers’ big men benefited from increased touches, as Wilkins and Jackson made a concerted effort to feed Hill and Abdelkhadre Cisse the ball. Cisse hit all three shots he took in the first half, while Hill, using his increasingly effective jump hook, hit for 8 second half points.
“I felt good today,” Hill said. “When the post gets more touches, good things happen.” Normally a starter, Hill was benched at the outset in favor of Cisse. Gillespie said Hill showed up at 10:47 to a 10:45 team meeting. Hill called the tardiness a “miscommunication with times.”
“I got penalized. I can’t say anything because I was wrong,” Hill said.
For the game, FAMU shot 54 percent from the field, in spite of an off night from its leading scorer.
Guard Mike Griffith suffered through a 2 for 7 shooting night and the pain of having one of his teeth knocked out again. Griffith said that he has been at the dentist’s office more than the gym floor, trying to get his dental situation straightened out.
When the subject of turnovers was broached, Griffith hung his head a bit.
“I think everybody’s adrenaline is just really high,” Griffith said. “The way we play, at the pace we play, some turnovers are going to happen.”
The win raised FAMU’s record to 3-4 in the conference. For Morgan State, the loss extended their season-long losing streak to 15. Morgan State forward Curtis King attributed his team’s lingering woes to gaps in concentration.
“Sometimes we don’t maintain our intensity. That’s why we have scoring lapses,” King said.