The Florida A&M men’s basketball team found itself in a position to win after chipping away its halftime deficit. But several mistakes down the stretch stalled its hot shooting offense as it lost to the North Carolina A&T Aggies 85-82, Monday night.
Sophomore Avery Moore buried a three-pointer to tie the game with under a minute remaining and the defense came up and stopped the next possession to force the game into overtime.
The Rattlers were undone by 19 turnovers and 12 missed free throws. Four of those came during overtime as the Aggies pulled away.
Sophomore Reggie Lewis agreed that struggles at the charity stripe were costly.
“I think we need to focus on our free throws and bounce back,” Lewis said. “If we would have made our free throws, I think we would have won by at least 11 to 15 points.”
Moore scored 22 points, and junior Amin Stevens scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Lewis added 12 points.
The Rattlers mounted a charge in the second half. After trailing halftime, the Rattlers outscored the Aggies 40-34 in the second half, thanks to 52 percent shooting from the field.
Head coach Clemon Johnson challenged the team at the half to make the first move.
“I told them to play the first four minutes and give me everything you have on the court,” Johnson said.
The energy was matched by both teams as they were exchanging the lead, which changed hands seven times during the game’s final four minutes.
In overtime, Stevens made two free throws to cut the lead to one with fewer than three minutes to play. The Aggies’ Adrian Powell retaliated with a three-pointer on the other end to extend the lead to four, and they never relinquished it.
Although the Rattlers forced the Aggies into shooting only 42 percent, the Aggies made 11 of its three-point attempts.
Stevens admitted allowing the early threes were key.
“I think we missed a lot of defensive assignments at the beginning of the game when the other team hit many threes,” Stevens said. “That’s what got us really behind.”
Despite the tough conference loss, Johnson still describes the team as “Teflon strong.”
“We dropped a close one but now we are going to go get ready for the next game,” he said. “Our confidence remains high no matter what happened on the floor.”
The Rattlers will return from their road trip to take on Savannah State University in the Al Lawson Center Saturday at 5:30 p.m.