In a nail biting game against the Coppin State Eagles, the Florida A&M men’s basketball team fell short during the last 45 seconds, losing 69-68 Monday night. The game was tied up eight times and had 16 lead changes.
A dunk by Eagles’ Julian Conyers at 13:31 gave Coppin a 17-5 lead over the Rattlers early in the game. However, a three-pointer by senior guard Leslie Robinson and two steals by Joe Ballard, followed by another three-pointer by Lamar Twitty, put the Rattlers back on track at 14-17 with 11 minutes from the half.
Ballard, a guard, said the team tried its absolute hardest.
“We saw how quick they jumped at us, and we tried to match their intensity,” said Ballard, 20, a junior from Illinois.
A foul shot by Twitty tied the game for the first time at 24-24 with 5:20 left in the first half. The players weren’t the only ones trying to match the Eagles’ intensity.
Rattler fans chanted FAMU cheers and sneered at the other team, while the Rattlers racked up the points, bringing them short 34-35 at the half.
At the beginning of the second half the Eagles took a four-point lead but the combination of shots by Ballard and Akini plus a steal by Robinson tied the score 40-40 with 16:37 left.
Moments later, Robinson cashed in a three-pointer to stake the Rattlers to a four-point lead of their own, but a jumper by Coppin’s Robert Pressey tied it once again, 46-46.
The battle for the lead continued down the stretch. Neither team could hold more than a three-point lead. With 5:30 left on the clock, a jumper by senior guard Ernest Maul and another three- pointer by Robinson followed.
Twitty, 21, a guard, said the team fought very hard and was very determined.
“We kept fighting,” said Twitty, from Fort Lauderdale. “We were never able to pull away.”
After five minutes of lead changes Akini’s jumper with 1:09 left put FAMU ahead for the last time at 68-67.
However, a missed jumper was rebounded by Coppin’s A’Daeron Duncan, who passed to Conyers. He missed a jumper, but Antwan Harrison tipped it in with four seconds left.
Coach Eugene Harris said th team didn’t play smart the last 45 seconds of the game.
“That one play didn’t cost us the game I can look at several different plays that really hurt us,” Harris said. “It was a combination of things that happened earlier where we were not tough, we were not taking the ball inside, we were taking shots off balanced, and that really hurt us.”
Robinson said the team came out sluggish and has been starting slow in the first half for the past couple of matches.
“They came out, they played hard; they probably wanted it more than we did,” said Robinson, from Illinois. “We came out slow, sure at the end of the game we fought back, but at the end of the game they wanted it more than us.”
Florida A&M, now 9-16 overall, 5-7 in the MEAC, got 24 points from Robinson, who sank five three-pointers. Akini added a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Twitty finished with 12 points.