The Rattlers eked out a hard-fought 69-62 victory against conference foe Delaware State Monday night.
The Hornets (14-10, 11-4) entered the contest ranked second in the MEAC.
The first half was marked by FAMU turnovers, spotting the Hornets an early four-point lead.
The Rattlers regrouped after a time out, led by the outside shooting of guard Dominique Jackson, who lead all scorers in the first half with 10 points.
Delaware State refused to go away. During the closing seconds of the first half, forward Antwaun Dent pulled up and drained a clutch three-pointer as the buzzer sounded, knotting both teams at 29.
The Rattlers found their offensive stride early in the second half.
Junior guard Michael Griffith raced toward the basket, dunking off a DSU turnover. Griffith was hit with a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
Momentum continued, however, in favor of the Rattlers.
Griffith drove hard to the basket on the very next FAMU possession. After drawing a foul he knocked out both free throws.
Dent quickly put an end to FAMU’s run with a 3-pointer and a field goal on back-to-back series.
Dent added another three to lead all Hornet scorers with 15 and tie the game up at 62 with only 2:15 remaining.
The Hornets pulled no closer after that point.
With 50 seconds remaining in the game, Jermaine Hill, FAMU’s dominant center, fouled out. He finished the game with 14 points.
With the Rattler defense and ball handling in tune in the late moments of the contest, Delaware State had to resort to fouling.
The Hornets made a poor decision on who to foul, sending Griffith to the line. He finished 5 of 6 in free throw attempts, and was the high scorer with 17 points.
Asked about what he thought was the key to his team’s victory, FAMU head coach Michael Gillespie cited several factors.
“We never got away from our game plan. This was one of our better defensive efforts,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie went on to talk about the strong performance of his players in the post and taking advantage of offensive mismatches as major factors in securing the win.
“This was a great team victory. We don’t have any one dominant player,” Gillespie said as he talked about the offensive contributions of several Rattlers.
The rebounding department was one the Rattlers picked it up in as well, finishing the game with 28.
“We’d been giving up a lot of rebounds in our past losses but when we play tough and rebound, we’re a tough team to beat,” Griffith said.
Griffith credited much of the improvement in rebounding to Hill, who finished the game with 8 boards.
“Jermaine has stepped up for us. If you ask me, he’s the most improved big man in the MEAC this year,” Griffith said.
“They were at home and they got the calls at home,” said Delaware State guard Prince Parker.
While he admitted that he was upset about the close loss to the Rattlers, Parker said he looks forward to the next game against MEAC leader Hampton University.
“It was a tough loss, but we won’t dwell on it,” Parker said. Echoing Parker’s view was DSU head coach Greg Jackson.
“They deserved to win; they wanted it more than us,” Jackson said.
Asked about what it would take to get his program back on the winning track, Jackson was to the point with his response.
“We just have to get back to the things we do best and get ready for our game against Hampton,” he said.
The Rattlers improved to a mark of (7-17, 7-8) and will face Coppin State on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Maryland