Despite a second-half surge by the Lady Bulldogs, the Lady Rattler basketball team held on to defeat South Carolina State (11-13, 6-7 MEAC) 75-69 Monday at the SHM Memorial Center in Orangeburg, S.C.
The Lady Rattlers now improve to 19-6 on the season and 12-1 in conference play.
Florida A&M scored almost at will during the first half shooting 64 percent from the field, over 70 percent from three point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
A three-pointer by Kimberly Sparkman jump-started the Lady Rattlers, and they would not look back, entering halftime with a commanding 45-28 lead.
The second half tipped off with a similar theme, as the Lady Rattlers held their wide lead for much of the second half.
But the Lady Bulldogs would threaten the lead with 5:21 remaining in the game, as they coasted on a 12-0 run.
During the Lady Bulldog run, head coach LeDawn Gibson said she reserved her players’ spirit and reminded them of their ability to overcome runs.
“We’ve been in that situation before. I told them they know how to close games,” Gibson said. “Basketball is a game of runs and we needed to end theirs and win the game.”
Late scoring down the stretch by Sparkman and guard Jasmine Grice sealed the Lady Rattlers’ victory.
Sparkman finished with a game-high 19 points. She hit four three-pointers and was 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. Qiana Donald, two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week, came up with a timely block down the stretch to prevent the Lady Bulldogs from entering striking distance.
Tiara Knotts led SCSU with 17 points, while Tiana Hemphill posted 14 points and 15 rebounds for a double-double.
The Lady Rattlers are partaking in one of their most successful seasons in years, and Gibson said it is all because of her players’ will to win.
“We play for our fans. We recruited a bunch of winners and all they want to do is win,” Gibson said.
Looking to secure the conference’s top seed, FAMU now turns its attention toward the Hampton Lady Pirates Saturday in the Al Lawson Center. Hampton is currently tied with the Lady Rattlers for first in the conference.