The Florida A&M University Rattlers could not come out on top in a strength versus strength contest against the North Carolina A&T Aggies Saturday night in the Al Lawson center. The Rattlers second home game of the new year was marred by turnovers and late game mistakes as the Lady Aggies defeated the Rattlers 79-72.
This was the Rattlers (8-4, 1-1 in the MEAC) seventh game decided by six points or less, and only the second loss in those close games. This loss was made worse by the fact that for the first eight minutes of the second half, the Rattlers seemed to be in complete control.
To open the second half, the Rattlers went on a 15-3 run. Leading 47-43, scoring at will behind guard Christian Rateree, who contributed three three-pointers during the run and forcing mistakes by the Lady Aggies, the Rattlers were putting together an impressive half after 11 turnovers in the first half.
“During that 15-3 run, we were playing our basketball,” forward Qiana Donald said. “As time went on we separated as they were coming together.”
Turnovers undid a strong second half start. Eight turnovers in the last six minutes effectively ended any hopes the Rattlers had of continuing their dominance of close games. Head coach LeDawn Gibson had to watch as the Rattlers could not close out what began as a strong performance.
“I don’t think they were doing it,” Gibson said. “I think we beat ourselves with the careless turnovers and missed free throws. We just stopped playing together. Around the eight minute mark we kind of stopped playing together then came back together around five minute mark then lost it down the stretch.”
Poor free throw shooting especially effected Donald. Donald led the team in free throw attempts with five and only managed to hit one of them. The team only shot 38 percent from the free throw line with five made attempts on 13 shots.
“It wasn’t falling for me, but I couldn’t focus on just that,” Donald said. “I just had to get back for my team and focus on the next play.”
When asked about improving her free throw shooting, Donald said she was confident a game like this one “won’t happen again.”
Defensively the Rattlers had trouble closing out on freshman guards Amber Calvin and Jaquayla Berry. Calvin and Berry both contributed 10 and 16 points respectively and shot a combined 5-8 from beyond the ark.
“It was more on communication,” Donald said. “We were in a zone and just couldn’t communicate to get there.”
The Rattlers came into the contest with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s No. 2 ranked defense, allowing only 61 points per game. They also entered the contest with three wins against out-of-conference opponents Florida, South Florida and Alabama.
The Lady Aggies (7-7, 2-0 in the MEAC) entered the game with a mediocre 7-6 record but the MEAC’s strongest offense, averaging 67 points per game.
The Rattlers will look to rebound in their next conference game against the Norfolk State University Spartans Monday.