Rattlers basketball falls to North Carolina Central 78-61

Offensive woes were more than the Rattlers basketball team (6-17, 4-5 MEAC) could overcome, as it fell 78-61 to conference-rival North Carolina Central (11-11, 5-4 MEAC) Saturday night in the Al Lawson Center.

FAMU entered play looking to build off its notable 68-62 victory against Bethune-Cookman last weekend. But it did just the opposite, committing 18 turnovers, shooting a lowly 40.8 percent from the field and displaying a lack of determination late in the game.

The Eagles have won three of its last four meetings with FAMU and now lead the all-time series 5-1.

“We didn’t put forth the effort tonight,” head coach Clemon Johnson said after the game. “I felt like we were still celebrating the Bethune-Cookman win, and it’s a team still trying to grow up. Unfortunately, it caught us. We kind of went through the motions for 35 minutes tonight and played for five minutes.

“We were hoping to win, not playing to win.”

Offensive struggle would plague FAMU late in the first half, as NCCU jumped out to a 35-29 lead with 2:34 to go.

The Rattlers would trail for the remainder of the half, entering halftime with a 40-33 disadvantage.  

Stevens paced the Rattler offense with nine points and seven rebounds during the first half. Yannick Crowder chipped in nine points and four rebounds, while Lewis connected for seven points.

On the half, the Rattlers shot 56 percent (14-of-25) from the field, 80 percent (4-of-5) from the free-throw line and 16.7 percent (1-of-6) from three-point range.

The Eagles matched FAMU’s shooting from the field with 56 percent (14-of-25). They shot 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from the charity stripe and 37.5 percent (3-of-8) from beyond the arc.

NCCU would continue the pace during second half, jumping out to a 60-44 advantage on a Ray Willis layup with 8:24 remaining in regulation.

The Rattlers’ defensive performance down the stretch was no match for the Eagles’ 51.9 percent shooting from the field, as they would control the tempo for the game’s remainder to stamp a victory.

“I was frustrated on defense because I don’t think we were playing hard on defense at all,” Stevens said.

“Our intensity, our energy, our whole morale just went down as a team,” Crowder said about the team’s final minutes of the game.

Crowder tallied a team-high 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks on the game. Stevens would support on offense with 15 points and 11 rebounds to secure a double-double, while Lewis posted 10 points. Eight players scored in all.

As a team, FAMU concluded the game with 72 percent shooting from the line (18-of-25) and an underwhelming 17.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Willis posted a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles, recording a double-double. Sutton followed with 23 points and eight assists and Jeremy Ingram chipped in 10 points.

FAMU will look to redeem itself in conference play Monday night against the North Carolina A&T Aggies in the Al Lawson Center at 7:30 p.m.