FAMU men start homestand against NC A&T

The men’s basketball team is on a two-game losing streak, but that can immediately be turned around when the Rattlers come to blows with North Carolina A&T tomorrow at 4 p.m. in Gaither Gymnasium. The Aggies, currently on a two-game winning streak, have slowly crept their way out the lower depths of the MEAC standings, where the team has been a constant fixture in recent years.

FAMU Head Coach Mike Gillespie said this may not be a coincidence and that teams are finally beginning to find their way to success in the conference.

“I think everybody’s improved,” Gillespie said. “You got A&T winning two ball games. Morgan State has improved. We’re just trying to find our niche right now, so hopefully coming home, we can gather some momentum.”

Saturday’s game will kick off an important six of seven home game stretch for the Rattlers. FAMU has split the two games they have played in Gaither, but the task of bringing in a second win will involve going through the second leading scorer in the MEAC, sophomore guard Sean Booker. Booker, second in the scoring title race, is averaging 17.5 points a game along with 4.1 rebounds. He and fellow backcourt teammate Steven Koger, who scored 22 points in a victory over Howard, have garnered special attention from the Rattler coaching staff.

“Those are their two best players back from last year,” Gillespie said. “If we’re going to be a successful team, we’ve got to hold those two guys in check. Those guys can’t go out and get 20 points each.”

FAMU guard James Pattman agreed with Gillespie but felt they have been well prepared for outstanding guards by playing some of the best in the country early in the season.

“Every night in the MEAC is like that,” said Pattman, describing the heated competition of guards in the league. “Guard play is one of the strong suits of the MEAC, but we’ve been playing good guards all year from Michigan State to Oklahoma. So I think we’re prepared for that.”

Coming into the game, the Rattlers are shooting better from the field, committing less turnovers and knocking down a better percentage from the foul line than the Aggies. Gillespie said the Rattlers have failed to be consistent throughout the year, but several things must remain consistent for a win.

“We’ve got to value the ball,” Gillespie said. “We can’t turn the ball over and we have to hold our opponent to under 40 percent from the floor. If we do that, we have a tremendous chance of winning Saturday.”

Forward Michael Harper, Pattman and guard Tony Tate are three players Gillespie said he’s counting on for team guidance in the upcoming games.

“These are three guys who have been here and know what we expect and I would like to see them lead us in the right direction for these home games,” Gillespie said.

Harper had a breakout game against Morgan State, scoring 18 points and grabbing five boards off the bench in a 74-59 loss Jan. 17.

“I have a little momentum (going into Saturday’s game), but we need to grow some more team momentum,” Harper said. “As soon as we do that and click, we should be alright.”

A win would put the Rattlers, currently 2-4 in the MEAC, one game closer to a .500 record in conference and into a four-team battle in the middle of the standings.

Contact Lemont Calloway at la_calloway@hotmail.com.