Missed opportunities hurt Rattlers at home

What can be worse than going 2-2 on an underwhelming homestand?

If you ask the Florida A&M University’s men’s basketball team, it’s knowing that you could have had a dominating 4-0 record.With an 82-78 loss to North Carolina State University Monday, the Rattlers were unable to take advantage of an opportunity to take control of the conference and gain momentum before heading on the road to face University of Maryland Eastern Shore this Saturday.

“We had two home games that we feel we should have won, and we somehow squandered them,” said Head Coach Mike Gillespie of the Rattlers’ home losses to Hampton University and North Carolina A&T University. “Now we have to go on the road and try and get two wins.”

Gillespie said the margin of victory for the opposition is what frustrated him most.Before the narrow 76-74 loss to Hampton, the Rattlers were sporting a 5-0 record at home.

But the undefeated record would soon be blemished, as the team was unable to pull out a win after officials waved off a potential game-tying layup in the final moments of regulation.That play was indicative of both of the Rattlers’ frustrating losses at home. In the loss to North Carolina A&T on Monday, junior guard E.J Maul failed to connect on a layup with 17 seconds to go that would have given the Rattlers a 80-79 lead. The Rattlers were never able to recover after the miss.

The Rattlers were impressive in their two recent wins at home as they shot 50.9 percent from the field against Norfolk State University and 46.7 percent from the field against South Carolina State University. While hot shooting from the floor has been a hallmark in the Rattlers’ last two home victories, lack of aggression, turnovers and poor free-throw shooting have plagued them in their losses.

“Today it came down to loose balls,” Gillespie said after Monday’s loss. “Every loose ball they seemed to get and we didn’t. We had missed free throws, and we turned the ball over, I’m guessing, 25 times. When you do those three things, you put yourself in the position not to be successful,” Gillespie said.In fact, the Rattlers turned the ball over 29 times against the Aggies. In the loss to Hampton the team coughed up another 20 turnovers. Sharp shooting junior guard L.C. Robinson said the turnovers slowed the Rattlers’ momentum in both games.

“You can see guys put their head down on the bench after a turnover, ” Robinson said.

Sophomore guard Lamar Twitty said the team had trouble dealing with pressure defenses in the losses against Hampton and North Carolina A&T.

“We really aren’t used to seeing the press in the MEAC,” Twitty said. “That press really speeds us up, and we ended up turning the ball over.”

Twitty also said the official’s calls were not the typical reflection of a home-court advantage.

“When you are at home, you expect to get a few more calls than that,” Twitty said after scoring a season high 16 points against the Aggies.

Gillespie seemed to be visibly frustrated with the officiating in the game against the Aggies as well. After sophomore guard Joe Ballard was called for two consecutive traveling violations in the second half against the Aggies, Gillespie greeted the officials at mid-court during a timeout to discuss the calls.

“Too many travels were called,” Gillespie said. “It was ridiculous. I have never seen that many travels called in one game.”

After the Rattlers shot just two free throws in the first half, Gillespie questioned whether or not the team should have taken a few more trips to the line.

“I thought we took the ball to the basket pretty hard, and we only shot two free throws in the first half,” Gillespie said.On Maul’s missed layup on Monday, Gillespie said the 6-foot guard was pushed on the way up.

Despite complaints about officiating, Gillespie said the team has no excuses for the two home losses.

“Really the officiating had nothing to do with the outcome of the game,” Gillespie said. “We had our chances, and we didn’t convert.”

Robinson, who has averaged slightly more than 17 points in his last four games, said the team has to put the mediocre stretch behind it.

“We have to keep playing hard and stay focused,” Robinson said. “We can’t let these two home losses get to us. If we let them get to us, they are going to continue.

So now we have to go on the road and tough it out.”

The Rattlers will head to Princess Anne, Md. to take on Maryland Eastern Shore Saturday.