A lineup change can rouse second string players and invigorate starters, leading to a spike in play. This was not the case Monday night in the Al Lawson Center as the Lady Rattlers fell 65-48 to the Hampton University Lady Pirates.
Head coach LeDawn Gibson started four players who typically see minimal minutes, citing “disciplinary issues.” The new lineup was out of sync from the beginning, falling behind 10-0 early in a game where the Lady Rattlers never held the lead.
“The five that you saw started tonight were the five that came to practice yesterday ready to practice,” Gibson said.
The new group of starters did not last long. Players the started the game like Eliza Bryant and Crystal Chaney saw three and six minutes respectively. The Lady Pirates opened the half with a 20-4 run, establishing a lead that the Lady Rattlers could only cut to as low as nine before the game was over.
Even after coming off the bench, the usual scoring threats were not as potent as the team has come to expect. Guards Tameka Mckelton, Lashonda Gaines and Christian Rateree combeined for nine points. Gaines fouled out with 8:32 left in the game.
“If we would have came out with normal, FAMU basketball it would have been a much closer game, if not us ending up on top,” Gibson said. “We just had some disciplinary issues yesterday. [The team] let outside issues affect the game today.”
The Lady Rattlers found it impossible to recover from a dismal first half that saw 16 turnovers, eight made shots and three player pick up two fouls. Senior guard Deidra Jones provided the only stability for the team, connecting on all three of her shot attempts and both free throws to score eight points.
“A couple of people, [Jones] and [Donald], shook it off and did what they had to do,” Gibson said.
The team also struggled with personnel match ups throughout the game..
Hampton guards Choicetta McMillian and Bernadetter Fortune combined for 29 points on 10-18 shooting. Forward Quanneisha Perry took advantage of Florida A&M forward Qiana Donald’s early foul trouble, scoring 11 points.
Despite the early foul trouble and a late technical foul, Donald led all scorers with 19 points. She also grabbed seven rebounds.
“I just do what I do best,” Donald said. “Grab rebounds, try to get put-backs, just keep going hard at it.”
The Lady Rattlers (15-10, 7-7 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) are now tied for sixth place in the conference with the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.
A top four conference finish all but impossible for the team now with only two conference games left on its schedule. South Carolina State (9-17, 4-10 in the MEAC) and Bethune-Cookman (14-11, 9-4 in the MEAC) are left on the schedule, but both Bethune-Cookman and Morgan State hold two-game conference leads over Florida A&M.
Nevertheless, the team is ready to finish their schedule strong.
“We have more games to come,” Donald said. “This is not the end of our road. We just need to shake this off and move on to the next game. We have to just learn from our mistakes.”