The Rattlers were finally able to jump back into the win column Saturday afternoon with a 93-68 victory over the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (1-10, 0-3 MEAC). The Rattlers (3-8, 2-2 MEAC) earned their second win in conference play as they ended their two-game home stand with a 1-1 record before a more familiar crowd of 777.
Because FAMU guards Tony Tate and Jonathan Kelly were late for the pre-game shoot-around, the starting lineup was slightly tweaked for disciplinary reasons. Guard Jeremy Henderson made his first start of the season and forward O.J. Sumter stepped in for only his second start of the season.
Averaging 4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds before Saturday’s game, Sumter elevated his game and led the Rattlers with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds in 18 minutes of play.
“I think we’ll go with O.J. more,” FAMU Head Coach Mike Gillespie Sr. said. “We brought him in two or three years ago but injuries had been a problem. Now, his body’s in shape and its wonderful for fans to see the player that I saw back then.”
Sumter helped the Rattlers get off to an early 8-2 lead by scoring four quick points in the paint behind assists from Henderson and guard Michael Sams. The Rattlers recorded 25 assists for the game. The 15 first-half assists tied a Rattler game-high for the season.
Tate, who finished with 14 points along with three steals, displayed a team-first attitude on the court.
“We wanted to come in and get everyone’s confidence up,” Tate said. “They (the Hawks) were a team we could do that on, so we just moved the ball around, trying to get everyone involved, especially the freshmen.”
Freshman Rattler guard Jon Mason came off the bench and chipped in eight points including going 2-2 from downtown. His two 3-pointers, however, were unable to overshadow a missed wide-open fast-break layup.
“He said a lot,” Mason said with an embarrassed smile as he described what Gillespie said to him after the miss. “He told me I should have made it but to just play hard to the end.”
With a 48-28 lead at the half, FAMU continued their gutsy play, outscoring the Hawks 45-40 behind eight second-half points and five rebounds from forward Darius Glover. He finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds, but his vocal communication fueled him on the floor.
“Coach said somebody needed to step up and be vocal out there,” Glover said. “I’m new on the team, so he expects more from me.”
“He can inspire,” Gillespie said. “He plays with a lot of emotion and can be a motivator out there.”
The Rattlers completely dominated the Hawks in every major statistical category. FAMU forced 21 turnovers while only committing 11. Maryland-Eastern Shore was out-rebounded 53-34 including 21 offensive rebounds by the Rattlers, compared to 11 for the Hawks. After shooting 50 percent in the first half, FAMU shot 46.9 percent for the game.
“There were things being taught in practice that weren’t applied Thursday against B-CC,” Gillespie said. “We’re going to work and prepare for Coppin State and do what we can to steal one.”
The Rattlers will visit Coppin State Saturday, who is tied for first place in the MEAC with Bethune-Cookman.
Contact LeMont Calloway at email@example.com.