In Saturday’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game, the Florida A&M men’s basketball team fell to the Hawks of Maryland Eastern Shore in overtime, 60-58. It was UMES’ first MEAC win.
Justin Ravenel led the way for the Rattlers, who dropped to 5-14 overall and 2-2 in league play, with a game-high18 points.
In a game that had a grit and grind feel to it, the 1,565 fans in attendance acted as a sixth man for the Rattlers as their defense held strong through the majority of the game, forcing 11 steals as a team. UMES, now 3-17 and 1-3, was an abysmal 4 of 19 from the three-point line and 23 of 54 overall from the field.
“We had some defensive breakdowns in the first half that really, really cost us, mainly the three consecutive three-point shots from Ryan Andino and he was one of the guys along with Ahmad Frost that we put emphasis on to not allow open threes,” head coach Robert McCullum said. “They are not a great three-point shooting team overall and they weren’t tonight as they only shot 21 percent from the three-point line and it doesn’t get better than that, but again those three consecutive threes gave them confidence and a cushion.”
After closing out the first half on a good note, the Rattlers seemed to play with more of an urgency coming out of the half. Ravenel put FAMU on the board first to start the second half, knocking down a three-pointer and trimming the Hawks’ lead to 31-29 with 19:05 remaining. Most of the second half seemed was a seesaw affair as both teams exchanged the lead multiple times, but could neither could hold onto it for very long.
Freshman guard MJ Randolph along with Ravenel and D.J. Jones all made their presence known throughout the game, especially down the stretch as Randolph finished the game with eight points (3 of 8 from the field), to go along with two rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
Jones was also able to contribute when it mattered the most as he knocked down a midrange shot with 1:20 remaining in regulation, to bring the Rattlers within two, as they trailed 52-50. Jones finished with 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting, to go along with six rebounds (three offensive), three steals, and a block.
“In the beginning of the game I didn’t have any (offensive rebounds) so coach (McCullum) got onto me about that and I know I had to do that for my team in order for us to have a chance of winning because I didn’t want us to lose,” Jones said.
Ravenel, FAMU’s leading scorer, said he will take whatever the opposition gives him.
“Defenses tend to just stand by me throughout the game and that just opens up drives for the inside guys like MJ (Randolph),” Ravenel said. “A lot of what I’ve been seeing since we’ve been playing conference is that a lot of guys will either try to completely take me away or they will just try to switch, so that will definitely open up drives and a lot of post passes for Isiah Martin.”
While the Rattlers suffered a heart-breaking loss, McCullum believes his team did a great of fighting back after an early deficit.
“I’m extremely proud of the way our guys fought to give ourselves a chance to win, we just didn’t make enough plays that we needed to make to win the game,” McCullum said.
FAMU won’t have to wait long to try and bounce back. The Rattlers host Delaware State at 8:30 p.m. Monday.