The crucial home game stretch in the upcoming weeks for the men’s basketball team got off to a promising start with a 93-86 win over North Carolina A&T (3-14, 2-4 MEAC) Saturday afternoon in Gaither Gymnasium.
With the win, the Rattlers (4-10, 3-4 MEAC) move into a three-way tie for eighth place with Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State.
FAMU had an unusual sparkplug in freshman guard Jon Mason. Christened as “Get Buckets” by his teammates, Mason scored a Rattler-high 20 points off the bench behind four 3-pointers.
“I felt good,” Mason said. “I just played within myself and within the offense, took good shots and they went down for me.”
Mason’s performance didn’t come as a shock to those who’ve watched him in action.
“I expect that every game from Jon,” said Head Coach Mike Gillespie. “He can really shoot the basketball. He certainly gives us another option that we never had before.”
Forward Brian Zamore, who is averaging only 10 minutes a game, also proved to be a boost of energy off the bench with 11 points and seven rebounds – with six coming on the offensive end.
“We’re about five deep in the post this year, so sometimes I get lost in the rotation,” Zamore said. “Certain nights, certain people are going to be able to have the chance to do something. Tonight was just my night to do something.”
Coming into the game, Aggie guard Sean Booker was averaging 17.5 points a game. The second most leading scorer in the MEAC, however, was held to 12 points on 4-12 shooting. Michael Koger, the other half of the Aggie 1-2 punch, filled in for Booker scoring a game-high 23 points, including an impressive 5-9 barrage from behind the arc.
The early full-court press by A&T kept things close in the early going, but the Rattlers took control with a 21-4 run midway through the first half. The half was capped off by a Mason lay-up following a possession-saving dive by Zamore.
The basket sent the Rattlers into halftime with a 53-47 lead.
Forward Darius Glover got things going in the second half, scoring nine of his 13 points and grabbing eight of his game-high 11 rebounds to finish with his second double-double of the season. Glover had 17 points and 12 rebounds in 77-64 loss to Bethune-Cookman Jan. 6.
The Rattlers also got great production from wing players Jonathan Kelly and Michael Sams. Kelly contributed 14 points and six rebounds while Sams chipped in 10 points on 5-5 shooting.
Gillespie said he was pleased to see a total group effort from the team, who had six players in double-figure scoring.
“It separates us from being a very good team from being an average team,” Gillespie said in describing the contributions of both the perimeter and post players in Saturday’s win. “If this guy can get us four (points) and that guy can get us six, they can add up (in the long run). Those are the types of things that can make us an outstanding team if we get those contributions all the time.”
If the Rattlers thought playing against the MEAC’s second leading scorer posed a threat, South Carolina State’s Thurman Zimmerman, the leading scorer in the MEAC, will be even more of a handful. The Preseason Player of the Year is averaging 18.2 points a game and South Carolina State is coming off a 64-38 road victory over B-CC Saturday.
Even though both teams are coming into tonight’s 7:30 game with positive momentum, Zamore feels confident about their chances of shutting Zimmerman down.
“We held him to 10 points from the floor and 10 from the line last year in the tournament,” Zamore said. “If we do the things we did tonight on Monday, we should be fine.”
Contact Lemont C alloway at email@example.com.