The Rattlers surrendered a dismal 23 offensive rebounds to North Carolina A&T Monday night en route to a surprising 73-70 upset over Florida A&M University (11-14, 7-6).
As a result, the Aggies (4-18, 4-8), who until Monday were winless on the road, held a 20-13 advantage in second and, on several occasions, third-chance opportunities.
Head coach Mike Gillespie was visually disappointed in the Rattlers’ effort on the glass.
“You give up 23 offensive rebounds, you can’t win. I don’t care who you play,” Gillespie said. “That was the difference in the outcome of the ball game tonight. You can look at every statistic and that’s going to be the one statistic that’s the most glaring.”
A majority of the Aggie field goal attempts were from 3-point range. A&T went 14-for-35 from downtown, but its missed opportunities haunted the Rattlers as much as the successful shots, which sent the misses off the rim for longer rebounds.
“The ball very seldom falls straight down (on long-range misses). It’s always going off at angles,” Gillespie said. “When so many threes are shot, it is your guards that have to rebound the ball and our guards did a very poor job of rebounding the ball.”
Tony Tate was the only guard that tallied a rebound for FAMU. He finished with three and a team-high 15 points.
“I really don’t even know what to say right now,” Tate said. “This hurts to tell the truth. Real frustrating.”
The loss dropped the Rattlers to a fifth place tie with Norfolk State in the MEAC, while the Aggies remain in seventh. The chance to capture the regular season MEAC title appears a distant dream with six losses on the record, but Gillespie said he’s not overlooking that they still have five remaining games to improve.
“It’s my job to get us better and to win all five games,” Gillespie said. “If we do that, we finish 12-6 (in the MEAC). That’s got to be our goal right now. Somehow, some way, we’ve got to find a way to get a win.”
FAMU jumped out to a quick 9-3 lead capped by a Joe Ballard 3-pointer, but Aggie forward Michael Hayes led A&T with an onslaught of five first half 3-pointers to give A&T a 38-35 halftime lead. Hayes scored a game-high 19 points including six 3-pointers.
Trailing by as much as seven in the second half, the Rattlers staged a rallying comeback highlighted by back-to-back Jonathan Kelly 3-pointers to tie the game at 54 with 7:37 remaining. Down by one with 1:16 left, Kelly fumbled a fast break bounce pass from Tate, turning over the ball and relinquishing the last bit of momentum toward a victory.
Kelly finished with 12 points.
Brian Greene provided the Rattlers with another double-digit scoring spark. Narrowly missing a double-double Feb. 11 against South Carolina State, Greene recorded his first one of the season with 11 points and 10 boards.
“I’m getting back to regular form,” Greene said. “The coaches and team expect a double-double from me. That’s my job.”
The Rattlers will have the opportunity to steal two victories when they take to the road Saturday to challenge the 2-10 Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks and the 1-11 Howard Bison Feb. 20.
Contact LeMont Calloway at email@example.com