By ALEXANDER LOMONACO
The Lawson Center was electric Monday evening, as the home crowd was brought to their feet time after time as the FAMU Rattler Men’s Basketball team won in convincing fashion against North Carolina Central, 73-57 in a nationally-televised game on ESPNU.
The Rattlers (10-14, 7-2 MEAC), found their way to victory like they have done on every previous game during this win streak; with their effort on the defensive end of the court.
The Eagles (10-13, 5-4 MEAC) for the game shot 31% from the field including an abysmal 1 for 19 from three point land.
In the press conference after Saturday’s win against North Carolina A&T Head Coach Robert Mccullum stated that his focus on Monday would be to limit Central’s best player Raasean Davis. and that is what the Rattlers accomplished; holding the all-conference player well below his season average with 12 points.
“I knew we were playing a great team today,” said Mccullum in his press conference after the game. Which was true, Central and FAMU were tied for third place in the MEAC entering the weekend. with five wins and two losses in conference play. However, NCCU lost at Bethune-Cookman, 74-64 on Saturday giving FAMU sole possession of third heading into Monday’s showdown.
With the Monday victory, coupled with North Carolina A&T losing at Bethune-Cookman. the Rattlers took sole possession of second place in the standings, just one and one-half games behind first place Norfolk State (8-0), which comes to Lawson for an ESPNU Monday Night Lights bout next Monday night.
Despite resting their hat on their defensive blueprint, the Rattlers exploded for 41 first half points, mostly due to an offensive explosion from leading scorer Justin Ravenel who lit up the Eagles for twenty three first half points.
He also brought the house to their feet on two chase down blocks at the rim after turnovers presented the Eagles with what seemed to be easy fast break opportunities.
The best of Ravenel’s incredible first half came right at the end of the first half where Mccullum called a timeout with the ball right underneath his own basket with three seconds to go before halftime.
The inbounder Tracy Hector threw a baseball pass seventy feet to seven footer Isaiah Martin, a la Grant Hill to Christian Laettner, who was standing at the free throw line and then passed it to Ravenel who shot a leaning and contested three pointer that banked off the glass and went in as time expired.
The Lawson Center exploded, and his teammates rushed to hug him as if Justin hit a game winning shot instead of putting his team up thirteen at the break.
When I asked if the team practices the classic Duke play, Coach McCullum was quick to correct me on my historical reference. “You see on that play was designed for Laettner to score, this play we call ‘Home run’ and it is more identical to the Valparaiso play where they shocked Ole Miss in the tournament in 1998” he said with a smile.
In the second half Central made sure not to let Ravenel get in his zone by constantly double teaming and switching whenever he touched the ball, so it opened the game up for someone else to take over the scoring load and that someone was the Rattlers other starting guard Kamron Reaves.
Reaves flourished in the second half, scoring 15 of his twenty three total points in the final twenty minutes of the game with a combination of driving to the basket and sinking mid-range shots.
“We are just now starting to see glimpses of what the Justin and Kamron combo can do, a month ago we weren’t making these plays.” McCullum said.
After heaping a bunch of praise on his guards, it was Ravenel who had kind words to say about his coach: “I saw a new approach when coach took over, this program has a chance to do big things and we are scratching for first this year.”.
The Rattlers will have to maintain their hot level of play and confidence next Saturday against Howard at home.
“Howard is worth the price of admission,” said McCullum who is never short of words of respect for his opponent and the game of basketball. The game will tip off after the Women’s game at 4 o’clock at the Lawson Center.