Offensive spark by Kimberly Sparkman was all the Lady Rattlers needed, as her 19 points paved the way to their 14th straight victory.
The women’s basketball team (17-5, 10-0 MEAC) skated past the North Carolina A&T Aggies (10-13, 5-5 MEAC) 68-63 Monday night in the Al Lawson Center.
The Aggies’ aggressive defense slowed the Lady Rattlers’ offensive production during the first half, holding the Rattlers to 37 percent shooting from the field. FAMU displayed resilient defense as well, as both teams to combine for 27 turnovers in the first half.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball,” head coach LeDawn Gibson said. “A&T came out aggressive and we let them be the aggressor the first half and I think that was a lot of our problem.”
Kimberly Sparkman, who played with the flu, paced the Lady Rattlers in the first half with 16 points and 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
“Sparkman’s threes were huge,” Gibson said. “She put herself aside for the team tonight and I am very proud of her.”
The Lady Rattlers, who entered halftime with a four-point lead, held the Aggies to 40 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.
FAMU came out of halftime with intensity and aggressiveness, controlling the tempo for most of the second half.
“We had to pick up the intensity as the game kept going,” Sparkman said. “We had to work hard to stay ahead in the game and keep the pace up.”
The Lady Rattlers did just that, holding the Aggies to 28 percent shooting from the field allowing one three pointer the entire second half.
The Lady Rattlers amplified their offensive production, capping a 13-5 run with 11:10 remaining in the game for a double-digit advantage. Sparkman, Tameka McKelton and Antonia Bennett contributed to the run with three consecutive three-pointers.
McKelton and Bennett, who struggled offensively during the first half, entered a groove in the second half. McKelton added 13 points on the night – 10during the second half. Bennett scored 12 of her 17 total points during the second half and added four assists.
Bennett also reached the 1500 career-point mark by the end of regulation.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but all of it comes from my team,” Bennett said. “Without them I wouldn’t have it so I want to thank my team.”
The Aggies closed the deficit to five points late in the second half, but the Lady Rattlers held on to seize the victory.
With only six more games until the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament in Winston Salem, N.C., the Lady Rattlers’ are looking to enter competition undefeated in conference play.
The team will look to defend its winning streak Saturday in Washington, D.C., as it will face the third place Howard Bison (16-7, 8-2 MEAC) at 2 p.m.