By ALEXANDER LOMONACO
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Feb. 2) - You know what is the best way to ensure a victory in a basketball game? To never trail your opponent on the scoreboard.
That is what FAMU head coach Robert McCullum did on Saturday against previously unbeaten conference opponent North Carolina A&T, as the Rattlers dominated the Aggies 63-39, in a MEAC Men’s contest at the Al Lawson Center.
“I know it is a boring cliché but as I have told you all season, we pride ourselves on our defense,” said the second-year head coach after his team’s convincing win.
Coach McCullum has done an incredible job of getting his team to buy in into his philosophy, to sacrifice individual statistics on the offensive end so that better looks are there for teammates.
Team leading scorer Justin Ravenel, who had a season high 28 points in his last game against Morgan State found himself not having to shoulder the load Saturday night as his teammates stepped up led by Tracy Hector and Isaiah Martin with 12 points, while Ravenel and MJ Randolph each finished with 11 points. Guard Kamron Reaves finished with nine points as well.
Ravenel, to his credit, shot and efficient 50% on 4 for 8 shooting including 3 three pointers that kept him on pace to eclipse FAMU’s all time three-point record.
After the game Mccullum had some kind words for his leading scorer, “i can not have any more respect for that young man. Last year in my first year here, it was a struggle to find him consistent minutes and looks and when his numbers dipped he never complained once, or had his parents or high school coach argue to me.
“ I am so proud to see how much he has grown and how he is blossoming at the end of his basketball career.”
Ravenel’s fellow senior teammate, center Isaiah Martin also is blossoming into his role as the enforcer in the paint. Following his last game where he set a FAMU record of eight blocks in a single game, he followed up with another strong effort with a line of 12 points, 15 rebounds and five (5) blocks, as he and the rest of his teammates held North Carolina A&T to below 30% shooting from the field.
“Before the game I like to set myself personal goals and today I surpassed all of them, it is a huge confidence boost for me,” said the seven-footer.
Despite the hot start to the game there was a little bit of a doldrums for the Rattlers coming out of the gate in the second half. Their 29-19 halftime lead had quickly evaporated away to five within the first three minutes, but instead of calling an emergency timeout coach Mccullum, said he wanted to let them play through the adversity.
McCullum was rewarded for his faith in his players, as the Rattlers eventually found their rhythm again and their great defense would lead to easy transitional buckets. FAMU’s lead would balloon all the way up to as much as 26 points, and the home crowd at the Lawson Center was rowdy and cheering on the players for every second.
“Getting guys to embrace roles is what being a head coach of a basketball team is all about, it takes time and I think the best is still yet to come,” said Mccullum.
With the win, FAMU (9-14, 6-2 MEAC) equaled its’ number of wins from a year ago, and coupled with North Carolina Central’s loss to Bethune-Cookman Saturday, the Rattlers are now in sole possession of third place in the MEAC.
Monday night, FAMU will host North Carolina Central at 7:00 p.m. in a nationally televised contest on ESPNU.