Opportunity knocked at FAMU’s door this weekend but the Rattlers were unable to answer.
Cold from the field for most of the second half, the Rattlers (6-8 conference, 6-17 overall) fought back from a 11-point deficit in the last five minutes before falling to Howard (9-5, 14-10) 58-55 in front of 1,918 at Gaither Gym Saturday.
Center Jermaine Hill’s two free throws cut the Bison lead to 51-50 with 1:10 left in the game. On Howard’s next possession, FAMU’s Dominique Jackson blocked Ron Williamson’s jumper. Clayton Jenkins recovered the loose ball for the Rattlers and called a timeout with 45 seconds remaining.
After the timeout, the Rattlers failed to get the ball past midcourt. Point guard Demarcus Wilkins was whistled for a 10- second violation as he dribbled across the line. Bison guard Gil Goodrich was fouled on the next possession and made the first of two free throws.
The Rattlers failed to box out on the second and Kyle Williams grabbed a key offensive rebound. Goodrich went back to the line, canning both tries for a 54-50 Bison lead.
“I wanted it back. I know I’m a good free throw shooter. It was tough but I ended up knocking them down,” said Goodrich, who hit five of six free throws in the last 27 seconds. “It’s a big win because on Saturdays we struggle winning.”
The Bison had lost their last three Saturday league games.
After Wilkins cut the lead to 54-52 with 16 seconds left, Howard’s Williamson hit two free throws. The Rattlers kept fighting.
Jason Miles hit a deep three pointer from the right corner with 7 seconds left to cut the lead to 56-55.
After a timeout it appeared that FAMU guard Michael Griffith created a tie-up on the inbound pass, but the referee ruled that he stepped out of bounds. Goodrich made two more free throws to seal it for the Bison.
“Everything we could do to shoot ourselves in the foot during the course of that second half, we still had an opportunity to win the game,” said FAMU head coach Mike Gillespie. “We can still win this [MEAC] tournament.”
Howard coach Frankie Allen said, “This is a sweet win for us and we can really cap off our trip if we can use the momentum from this win to play and win at Bethune.”
The Rattlers held Howard’s leading scorer Williams to 10 points but Williamson took up the slack leading the Bison with 21 points.
“I just tried to come out and be aggressive,” Williamson said. ” We’re trying to get these wins down the stretch and get a bye in the MEAC tournament.”
Griffith who led the Rattlers with 15 points said, “We gave another one away. We gotta’ rebound. They killed us on the boards. We gotta fix our mistakes.”
In a first half that saw six ties and five lead changes, FAMU took a two point lead into the locker room 29-27 on Hill’s put back at the buzzer.
The Rattlers shot 45 percent from the field in the first half while holding the Bison to 36 percent and18 percent (2-11) from three-point range.
The Rattlers will face Delaware State (11-3, 14-9) tonight at Gaither Gym.