Lady Rattlers ousted after first round bye

The Florida A&M University Lady Rattlers’ basketball team lost in the second round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference after receiving a first round bye.

The Coppin State University Lady Eagles beat the Lady Rattlers 76-64 on Thursday night in the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

“I’m still in shock on how we played,” said FAMU Lady Rattlers’ head coach LeDawn Gibson. “I think we’re a much better team than we displayed tonight.”

The Lady Rattlers went into the game with a full week’s rest set to take on a team they beat earlier in the season 73-62 at home. Coach Gibson was surprised her team came out flat as it fell behind 20-6 early in the first half.

Gibson said, “I felt like we had a great week of practice…thought they would come in focused and ready to go, but I don’t think we brought that fire with us tonight.”

The Lady Rattlers trailed for most of the game to the Lady Eagles. Although they tied the game twice, the Lady Rattlers never led during the contest.

FAMU’s first rally came in the towards the last minutes of the first half behind guard Jasmine Grice and bench production from forward Antonia Bennett, who didn’t start due to a sore ankle. Bennett scored nine of her 19 points during that stretch.

“I tried to go in to match [Coppin State’s] intensity and bring our intensity up off of the bench,” said Bennett.

Bennett came off the bench after missing two games at the end of the season due to a sprained ankle. Bennett said the Lady Eagles wanted it more.

“They were getting the hustle plays and we weren’t getting the hustle plays,” said Bennett. “They had more heart than us and they went out and fought for their team.”

Coppin State outrebounded the FAMU on the boards 51 to 39 while creating 32 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Lady Eagles gave up 22 turnovers with all, but two coming in the second half.

The Lady Eagles broke down the Lady Rattlers’ defense with Kyra Coleman and Shawntae Payne leading the scoring with 22 and 18 points respectively.

“I think we had some mental mistakes and also some simple mistakes that could’ve corrected, but tournament time is not the time to correct them,” said FAMU guard Tameka McKelton. “I think we came to the game fully prepared, but we just didn’t play our best game.”

The Lady Rattlers went into the down 36 to 30 at the end of the first half and never got the game closer than seven points. Bennett attributes the loss to a lack of urgency.

“I think we just played how we played all year and not playing like we were at the tournament trying to win,” said Bennett.

Gibson said the team would use the experience to make sure it doesn’t have the same result next year.

“We’re going to set the tone early [next year] from strengthening conditioning to preseason conditioning to just move forward from there,” said Gibson.