Close But Not Close Enough

Jermaine Ruttley attacks the rim (Photo Courtesy FAMU Sports Info.)

The Florida A&M University Rattlers men’s basketball team added another loss to their 20-game losing streak after being defeated by the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks at Al Lawson Multipurpose Center, Monday.

The Rattlers (0-20, 0-7 MEAC) began the game with a 6-0 run. They made their shots, attacking the basket early and often. The Rattler’s perimeter defense forced UMES’s (12-10, 5-2 MEAC) big men, who had a height advantage, to take tough shots in the paint.

However, the Rattlers continued their trend of committing costly turnovers, giving UMES 18 transition points off turnovers. The Hawks sped up the pace of the game with full-court and half-court traps against the Rattlers.

FAMU head coach Byron Samuels talked about his team’s effort throughout the game and the support from the community.

"Their press bothered us in the first half, but we only had three turnovers in the second half," Samuels said. "I’m proud of our guys they fought for forty minutes … I’m also proud of our fans, this place was electric, they were loud and into the game."

The pressure from the Hawks proved to be problematic for the Rattlers most of the game. Jermaine Ruttley, the Rattlers leading scorer, got into foul trouble early in the first half after a strong dribble drive to the basket picking up his third foul on a charge. The team struggled to find consistent scoring without the the six-foot-three guard and Radcliff, Ky. native on the floor.

Despite being in foul trouble, Ruttley believes he should still maintain an aggressive approach.

"I have been working on my jump shot, but other than that, I’m not afraid." Ruttley said. "I’m going to keep attacking, I’m a tough guy."

The Rattlers went into halftime trailing 39-30 without playing their best, but weathered the storm early. In the second half, coach Samuels and his players adjusted to the pressure from the Hawks. They committed only three turnovers in the second half. Their aggressiveness got the team to the free throw line 33 times, shooting over 70 percent.

The game was a tale of two halves as the Rattlers closed the lead to two points with under five minutes remaining in the half. The team attacked the rim, creating easy points during the comeback.

Ruttley and Quentin Bastian, a senior forward from Port Richey, Fla., attacked the paint relentlessly, outscoring the Hawks by 12 points in the paint.

Samuels said this game has made him optimistic for the next home game. He knew the team's opponents are motivated not to lose to FAMU.

"There were a lot of positives as individuals contributed in many ways and the guys played with great intensity," Samuels said. "It’s a testament to how hard our team played by visiting teams not wanting to be defeated by FAMU … we get everybody’s best shot and they know they better bring it or they’ll get snake bitten."

The next home game for the Rattlers will be this Saturday, Jan. 31 at Al Lawson as the Rattlers take on in-state rivals Bethune-Cookman University at 3 p.m.