On senior night, FAMU honored Moses White, Demarcus Wilkins and Terrence Woods for their contributions throughout their career. In their last home game at Gaither Gymnasium, the trio looked to cap their tenures at FAMU with a victory, but a South Carolina State University junior had other plans in mind.
Thurman Zimmerman, a likely candidate for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year, scored a game high 39 points as the Bulldogs (16-10, 13-4) beat the Rattlers (11-15, 10-7) 75-66.
“Zimmerman is a great player who was difficult for us to stop,” said head coach Mike Gillespie. “He’s a very smart player and he was the difference in the game.”
From the looks of their pre-game warm-ups, it appeared that the Rattlers could not miss. Their hot shooting carried over to the game as the Rattlers got off to an early 7-2 lead capped off by a dunk from FAMU forward Michael Harper. Harper finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
Rattler forward Jonathan Kelly scored on a fast break dunk. On the next possession, he followed with an offensive rebound and a put-back to extend the lead to 16-9 with 12:20 remaining in the first half.
But then Zimmerman emerged, knocking down a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 20-17 lead with a little under nine minutes left in the half. A back and forth stream of three-pointers between FAMU and SCSU kept the score close, but Zimmerman was a force that the Rattlers had no answer for. He ended the first half with 19 points, but the Rattlers went in with a 39-33 lead.
Harper had the task of guarding Zimmerman, but fell short.
“He played a hell of a game,” Harper said. “He caught me a few times toward the end of the game. Our team defense wasn’t as good down the stretch either. Our rotation was slow.”
“[Zimmerman] played an all around game for us,” said SCSU head coach Benjamin Betts. “He knocked down some key threes and he played well on the defensive end as well.”
The undersized Rattlers frontcourt was controlled by SCSU’s frontcourt, as the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Rattlers 41-31, including a 12-rebound performance by Zimmerman.
“We didn’t do as good a job as I thought we could have,” Gillespie said. “It’s things like this that can lead to a loss like the one we suffered tonight.”
Free throw shooting also played a major role in the game. FAMU shot a disappointing 47 percent from the stripe while SCSU shot 75 percent.
Although Woods caught fire from the field in the second half, scoring 14 points including four three-pointers. It was not enough, however, to overcome the dominant play of the Bulldog’s Zimmerman. Woods finished with a team-high 20 points.
The Rattlers will face the Bethune-Cookman College Wildcats Friday in Daytona Beach for their regular season finally.
“We’re just going to focus on taking care of Bethune-Cookman and see what happens for the tournament,” Gillespie said. “I think we’re good enough to win the tournament, it just all depends on the seed we get.”
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