Senior guard Brandon Bryant, of the Florida A&M men’s basketball team, could not have dreamed of a better ending to his last home game as a collegiate athlete. Bryant made two free throws with :13 left to secure a 69-64 victory over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats in front of a record crowd at the Al Lawson Center.
Bryant scored five points in the victory, and he said he could feel the pressure when he was on the free throw line late in the game.
“My emotions were going through me and I just wanted to make sure that I knocked those (free throws) down,” Bryant said. “I kind of put too much pressure on myself, but I just had to knock those two shots down.”
The Rattlers (9-21 overall, 5-11 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) understood the significance of their final home game of the season, and they wanted to make sure that they ended the season positively. Bryant appreciated the large turnout for the game, and he said that motivated the team even more.
“We wanted to go out with a bang,” Bryant said. “It was the last game in our new gym and we knew it was going to be a packed house. We just weren’t going to be denied tonight.”
The record-setting 5,419 people in attendance saw the Rattlers put together one of their best shooting performances of the season. The Rattlers shot 56.1 percent from the field (23-for-41) and they converted half (10-for-20) of their three point attempts.
Rattlers head coach Eugene Harris was impressed with his team’s offensive production and he said the large crowd gave the Rattlers the type of home court advantage that they should have for every conference game.
“Our guys did a good job, but we owe a lot of this (victory) to the crowd that we had in there tonight,” Harris said. “This was the kind of crowd that we need to come to every game in MEAC play.”
Although the crowd, a high shooting percentage and clutch free throws from Bryant helped the Rattlers win, Harris said that junior guard Rasheem Jenkins was the biggest asset to the team’s win.
“The main key to this basketball game was the play of our point guard,” Harris said. “(Jenkins) had a very good floor game. He played 32 minutes, and he only had one turnover with five assists.”
Jenkins led the Rattlers in scoring with 14 points and shot 80 percent (4-for-5) from three-point range. The Wildcats (16-15 overall, 7-9 in the MEAC) were lead by sophomore guard C.J. Reed who had 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Three of Jenkins’ three-pointers came in the second half, and Jenkins said he likes having the ball in his hand late in games.
“I’m not shy about shooting the ball, or taking big shots,” Jenkins said. “I live for the big moments.”
The MEAC tournament is the next stop for the Rattlers. The win against the Wildcats gives the Rattlers a 10th seed in the tournament, and they will face the seventh seed in the opening round, which is ironically, the Wildcats.
The tournament will be played in Winston-Salem, N.C., and it will be held from March 8-13. The third installment of the Rattlers vs. Wildcats matchup this season will be on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.