In sports, momentum can be the difference between winning and losing. And after winning their last two games, the FAMU men’s basketball team is hoping that momentum will help them avoid a loss Saturday.
“The kids played some really great ball in the last two games,” said head coach Mike Gillespie about the team’s victories over Howard University and Maryland Eastern Shore.
Despite coming into Saturday’s game with just two losses in the MEAC, the Rattlers (11-9, 6-2) are preparing to take on the conference’s best team, the Delaware State Hornets (10-9, 6-0), who have yet to register a conference loss.
The Hornets have managed to remain undefeated in conference play by taking advantage of last year’s MEAC player of the year, senior Jahsha Bluntt, and junior transfer Roy Brice. Along with a talented core, Delaware has an advantage that goes beyond the stat sheet.
“They are the most experienced team in the conference,” Gillespie said about their upcoming opponents.
Both Bluntt and Brice are top 10 in the conference in scoring. The duo could challenge the Rattlers’ defense, which has been especially strong as of late.
In a 65-53 victory over Howard on Monday, the Rattlers forced the Bison to shoot a lowly 35.5 percent from the field. Eastern Shore hadn’t fared better last Saturday as they shot just 25 percent from the floor.
Impressive defensive efforts have been a hallmark for the Rattlers this season as they have held opponents to 41.5 percent shooting this season.
Offensively, the Rattlers have been shooting the ball extremely well. They torched Howard, shooting 52 percent against the Bison. Gillespie said the team’s ball movement has opened the floor for good shots.
“I think we are sharing the basketball very well,” he said. “Getting the ball to the right people at the right time.”
The efficiency the Rattlers have shown on offense this season can largely be attributed to the re-emergence of their play under the basket.
“In my opinion, Rome Sanders is the best post player in this league,” Gillespie said. “Darius (Glover) is playing exceptionally well around the basket. We are not going to change how we do things now.”
Senior center Rome Sanders has been on a tear this past week. He posted 18 points and six rebounds against Eastern Shore. Against Howard, Sanders had one of his best games of the season. He dominated the blocks with 23 points and 11 rebounds, 5 of which came on the offensive end of the basketball.
“My teammates have just been finding me in the right places,” Sanders said. “Coach has a lot of confidence in me. He is running a lot of plays through me and it’s been going pretty good lately.”
On the other side of the paint, senior forward Glover has found his stride.
“Darius Glover is finally playing the way we know he can play,” Gillespie said. “His injuries seemed to have gotten better. He’s back in shape.”
Glover is averaging a double-double in his last two games with 15.5 points and 10 rebounds.
” It’s not a surprise to me,” Glover said of his recent success. “I had a lot of confidence in myself. It was just a matter of when it was going to happen. I just had to get more determined and dedicated to the game.”
The Rattlers will be looking to avenge two loses to the Bulldogs from last season. The Rattlers fell in a 61-50 decision to the Bulldogs last January and suffered another 61-58 loss later in the season.
“We are looking forward to this weekend,” Gillespie said. “If we do the things we are capable of doing, we should be able to get out of here with a win. It will be a great game.” The game will square off at 4 p.m. Saturday at Gaither Gymnasium. The game will cap off the Homecoming weekend for the team.
“They are in first place; we’re in second place,” Sanders said. “It’s homecoming weekend, so we should get a lot of support this weekend.”