When the Rattlers trailed by one point with five seconds remaining in regulation, junior Amin Stevens didn’t have the ball in his hands. But after sophomore Avery Moore missed a potential game winning three-pointer, he rebounded the ball just quick enough to beat the clock.
The Florida A&M Men’s basketball team (8-19, 6-7 MEAC) used Stevens’ put-back with one second remaining to deny the South Carolina State Bulldogs (5-22, 0-13 MEAC) their first conference win of the season by an 83-82 margin Monday night.
Stevens, who scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, said that he was elated when the shot went in.
“I was real happy because I didn’t want their first conference win to come against us,” he said.
The Rattlers were able to take advantage after a missed free throw by Devin Joint provided one last opportunity. When Moore missed a three-pointer with five seconds remaining, Stevens was under the rim to clean up the miss.
The put-back by Stevens capped a second-half charge by the Rattlers after they trailed 46-41 at halftime.
Head coach Clemon Johnson and his staff then told his team to “take pride” in its defense.
In the second half, the Rattlers held the Bulldogs to 32 percent shooting. This was a staggering difference from the Rattlers’ 60 percent shooting during the half.
Coach Johnson said that the team adjusted to the way South Carolina State scouted them. After halftime, the Rattlers switched their defense from a zone to man-to-man coverage.
“We made an adjustment at halftime to allow the best man to win,” Johnson said.
Strong play off the bench gave the Rattlers a big boost, as reserves Nathaniel Drayton, Chris Watson and Moore all scored in double figures.
Moore, who scored 15 points, said that the bench was able to step up and contribute when they were called upon.
“We all contributed together,” Moore said. “I always say if you don’t have a bench then you can’t win the game.”
Sophomore Reggie Lewis had 12 points as the Rattlers used balanced scoring with five players reaching double figures in points.
The victory gave the Rattlers momentum as they enter the final stretch of the season. With a remaining schedule Moore described as “must win”, the Rattlers will have home-court advantage in the Al Lawson Center until the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference Tournament begins in March.
Despite inconstancies, Johnson said the team is becoming more confident as tournament play nears.
“We are still in the process of learning how to win ball games even though it’s late in the season,” he said. “We are trying to get the highest seed possible going into the tournament.”
The Rattlers will return home Saturday to take on the Hampton Pirates in the Al Lawson Center.