Early surge not enough as Rattlers lose 70-61 to Pirates

Perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be.  The Florida A&M men’s basketball team had an opportunity to string together its first win streak in conference play this season on Monday night, but failed to do so. 

The Rattlers lost to the Hampton University Pirates 70-61 on Monday in the Al Lawson Center after knocking off the Howard Bison in overtime on Saturday night. 

Florida A&M head coach Eugene Harris cited three primary reasons why the rattlers lost the game.  Basically, he said the Rattlers were outplayed by the Pirates, despite an aggressive start by Florida A&M. 

“Here’s the three things that hurt us in the basketball game,” Harris said.  “Number one, (the Pirates) went to the line 34 times, and we went fifteen.  Second, (the Pirates) outrebounded us.  Third, we had a high turnover ratio in the second half.”

 The Rattlers (7-20 overall, 4-10 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) appeared to pick up where they left off from Saturday against the Bison in the beginning of the game.  Freshman forward Amin Stevens came out and sank his first three-point attempt, and the Rattlers began the game with an 8-0 lead. 

The Pirates (10-17 overall, 6-8 in the MEAC) were able to combat the Rattlers early surge by playing defense and working in the paint to get rebounds. 

“The basketball game was lost because we did not rebound the basketball,” Harris said.  “You cannot win a basketball game when you get outrebounded 15 times.”

Florida A&M compiled 25 rebounds as a team, while Hampton pulled down 40 rebounds. 

The game was tied 34-34 at halftime before seemingly everything went wrong for the Rattlers. 

“In the first half we only had two turnovers, we had 13 turnovers in the second half, that was another miscue,” Harris said.  The Rattlers committed fewer turnovers than the Pirates (16-15) but, as Harris said, 13 of the Rattlers’ 15 turnovers came in the second half. 

Harris has been challenging his players to keep their turnovers to a minimum all season, and in spurts, they have responded.  But for the most part, turnovers have been the main aspect of the team’s inability to close out on its opponents this season. 

The Rattlers also struggled getting to the free throw line against the Pirates.  Harris was disgusted by the discrepancy between Florida A&M and Hampton in terms of free throw attempts. 

“You can’t win a basketball game on your home court when the other team shoots 34 free throws and (we) only shoot 15,” Harris said. “I’ve never heard of that in my life.” 

There were some bright spots in the game for the Rattlers, even though it didn’t end in their favor.  Stevens has been playing strongly as of late, and on Monday he led the Rattlers in scoring with 14 points. 

Stevens admits that he has gained plenty of confidence during his first season as a college athlete, but he said he wants to improve on both sides of the ball. 

“I’m getting more confident,” Stevens said.  “I just need to work on my defense.” 

He also was frustrated with the loss on Monday, and he agreed with Harris on the reasons why his team didn’t execute. 

“Coach summed it all up, we got outrebounded and had too many turnovers in the second half,” Stevens said. 

The Rattlers’ next game will be against the Winston-Salem State Rams (11-15 overall) Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., at 4 p.m.