The Florida A&M Rattlers managed to overcome an intense defensive effort from the Delaware State Hornets and broke away with a 70-68 win Tuesday night at Gaither Gymnasium.
The win marks the eighth victory for Eugene Harris as Rattler head coach and the team’s third straight MEAC win. Harris explained the defense issues.
“They had a good half court man-to-man defense, but what we were not doing earlier in the game we did not cut,” Harris said. “And people that set up lock up defense on you, you really have to cut and set up screens and we started doing that into the second half.”
Senior guard Leslie Robinson, 21, from Rockford, Ill., said the Rattlers put up a good fight.
“You just got to fight through it when a defense pressures you; you have to pressure them,” Robinson said. “They pressured us, we pressured them and we just came out with the win.”
The Hornets forced the Rattlers into 13 turnovers. However, because of this aggressive tactic, the team had a total of 20 personal fouls against FAMU’s 13. The Rattlers shot 82 percent at the free throw line, making 22 of 26 free throws.
Robinson said the team had been struggling with free throws lately but used practice to hone its skills.
“We shoot enough free throws in practice,” Robinson said. “We should always shoot above 80 percent.”
The score was tied up four times and had a total of 12 lead changes. After a three pointer by Taylor with five minutes left in the second half, the Rattlers were back in the lead for good with 52-50.
With 4:37 left on the clock Joe Ballard broke away with a steal and was fouled hard by the Hornet’s Marcus Neal. A confrontation arose between Ballard and Neal, and referees and coaches tried to keep players under control.
Junior guard Lamar Twitty, 21, from Fort Lauderdale, said the tussle set the tone for the remainder of the game.
The Rattlers’ Jon Mason, Cassius Bell and Darryl Demps were ejected for leaving the bench during the confrontation. The Hornets’ Marcus Neal was also ejected for an intentional foul and a technical foul, which in turn gave the Rattlers four free throw shots.
Ballard hit one foul shot and Robinson sank two, giving the Rattlers a 55-50 lead over the Hornets.
“We went up seven and got the crowd into it that was a big turning point for us,” Twitty said.
The Hornets did not take defeat quietly. In the last eight seconds of the game, Delaware State landed two three pointers bringing them two points behind the Rattlers at the final buzzer.
With this new burst of confidence and intensity the Rattlers have one goal in mind.
“Our goal is to win the regular season but if not then to get to the tournament to make it to the NCAA tournament,” Taylor said.
Twitty led the way with double figures and had 20 points and 11 rebounds along with five assists. Ballard added 13 points and four rebounds followed by five assists and two steals, while freshman forward Larry Jackson scored 12 points. Taylor contributed 10 points.
The next game is away on Feb 2. The Rattlers will take on Winston-Salem State.