Rattlers ready for Carolina games

The Rattlers enter Saturday’s contest against the South Carolina State Bulldogs (7-13, 5-5 MEAC) with a sense of urgency. The team (11-12, 7-4 MEAC) split their two-game road trip and returned to Tallahassee still in the hunt for regular season supremacy. The men’s squad looks to protect Gaither Gym in the upcoming home stand against SC State on Saturday and North Carolina A&T on Monday. Senior forward Jonathan Kelly said the team is aware that the season is entering the home stretch.”These two games are real big. We’re not panicking but it’s coming down to the end,” Kelly said.The orange and green enter the weekend one game behind the second-place Coppin State Eagles. Senior point guard Tony Tate said the team’s focus will be geared toward what they can control, such as winning the games they play in.”We just gotta take care of our business first. Then, hope the other guys lose,” said Tate, the team’s leading scorer. The recent NCAA rulings, which made the team eligible for post-season play, added additional inspiration as well. “Everybody is real excited about getting a chance to play in the tourney,” said Kelly, a Tallahassee native. “We went through half the season not knowing if we would be able to play.”Tate also relishes the opportunity to have one more opportunity to win a conference title and a spot in the NCAA tournament in March.”I wanna go out with a bang,” Tate said. The Rattlers haven’t been to the big dance since 2004. That year, Tate had a break out performance scoring 20 points as a sophomore in the MEAC championship game versus Coppin State. “Hopefully we can win the regular season and then bring the tourney championship back home.” The Rattlers have the opportunity to sweep the season series with the Bulldogs. In their first match-up, the Rattlers beat the Bulldogs 72-65. The team was on fire throughout the first contest, shooting 56 percent from the field. The offense also got a boost from long range, shooting 62 percent from behind the 3-point line. SC State recently handed defending conference champs the Delaware State Hornets (11-11, 9-1 MEAC) their first conference loss of the season. Thurman Zimmerman, a 6-foot-6 senior forward led the way with 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists. The effort helped Zimmerman earn MEAC Player of the Week honors. The Rattlers expect the visiting Bulldogs to hold true to their moniker and give the team a tough game tomorrow.”We know we’re in for a dogfight,” Tate said.