Tough defense gives Rattlers edge in first conference win

With pressure defense and dominating frontcourt play, The Florida A&M University Rattlers (3-5, 1-0 MEAC) defeated the Bethune-Cookman College Wildcats (2-2, 0-1 MEAC) at Gaither gymnasium 83-73 Saturday in the first conference game of the year.

The Wildcats were no match for the Rattlers’ interior offense as they were outscored by the Rattlers 32-16 in the paint.

Senior forward Darius Glover led the Rattlers with 22 points and 10 rebounds, 6 of which came on the offensive boards that led to second chance points for FAMU. The six foot five inch, 245-pound Chicago native was able to throw his size around, stifling a much smaller Wildcat interior.

“I knew, coming into the game, that I wanted to cause havoc in the paint, so I worked extra hard in practice and it certainly paid off tonight,” said Glover. “I felt our inside play definitely made a difference in the game.”

In the first half, both teams were able to shoot the three effectively as FAMU shot hit on 8 of 17 and B-CC went 6 for 12 from behind the arc.

Off the bench, junior guard Jon Mason provided a spark for the Rattlers with 19 points, 14 of them coming in the first half as he shot 5 of 6 from 3-point land.

The Rattler bench outscored the Wildcat bench 32-15, which proved to be the difference in the game.

“We knew that our team was deeper than theirs, and we used that to our advantage tonight,” said assistant coach Mike Gillespie Jr. “Our bench play and defense won the game for us tonight.”

Going into the half, FAMU led 48-38 and seemed to be cruising toward an easy victory as B-CC struggled to figure out the inside-outside game of the Rattlers.

“We knew that our team needed to slow the game down and figure out how to attack their zone defense,” said B-CC head coach Clifford Reed, Jr.

The Wildcats made a 12-3 run to start the second half as the lead changed several times, which put B-CC back into the game.

Sophomore forward Kevin Creppy was able to spark the Wildcats with two baseline dunks as he slashed through the Rattler defense uncontested.

“In the second half, we were able to exploit the baseline which gave us opportunities for easy baskets and points from the free-throw line,” Reed said.

Down the stretch, the Wildcats got careless with the basketball, and the Rattler defense was able to create several turnovers which proved costly for B-CC.

“It came down to them being a more physical team, and we could not get them off the glass. We just could not get into any offensive rhythm tonight,” Reed said.

The Rattler defense was just too much for the inexperienced Wildcat team.

Constant pressure on the ball by guards Joe Ballard, Jon Mason and Brian Greene caused B-CC guards to struggle with the ball, especially with the game on the line.

“We know defense is the strength of our team, and we felt that we could pressure and speed up their guards, which caused them to turnover the ball,” said head coach Mike Gillespie Sr.Gillespie said struggles from the free throw line could have been a problem for the Rattlers.

“Missed free throws almost proved costly for us. We should have beat this team by a greater margin, but that is something we need to work in practice to get better at,” Gillespie said.