TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Jan. 4) – The Florida A&M Rattlers (2-15, 1-0 MEAC) used a pressing defense and efficient shooting to tame the hot shooting of the Howard Bison (3-14, 0-1 MEAC) en route to an 84-76 win in the MEAC home opener.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team. We did it the hard way. We fell down by 14 points, but I think we’re really growing. Previous games when things started going bad, you could look at our guys’ body language and you could see it. Tonight, I never saw that,” said head basketball coach Robert McCullum.
The Rattlers were led by senior Desmond Williams, who scored 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Williams also led the team with 12 rebounds, carding a double-double. Point guard Elijah Mayes has his best game as a Rattler, carding 22 points on efficient 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including going .500 from the three-point arc, making two of four. Marcus Barham and Nick Severado rounded out the quartet of players in double figures as they each chipped in 10 points each.
The Rattlers shot just 32.3 percent in the first half, regrouping to shoot 54.5 percent in the final period. FAMU also out-rebounded Howard 39 to 31. The Bison committed 12 turnovers, while the Rattlers committed but seven.
HU was led in scoring by the duo of RJ Cole and CJ Williams. Cole was the game-leading scorer with 30 points, going 3-of-7 from three point range. Williams was 3-of-5 from three point range, adding 21 points for Howard. Kyle Foster rounded out the double-figure scorers with 11 points.
The Bison shot 54.5 percent from the field in the first half, including 7-of-11 (63.6%) from the three point range. That shooting cooled in the second half as they shot just 28.6 percent, going 2-of-7. HU shot 60 percent from the free throw line.
FAMU shot an efficient 78.6 percent from the charity stripe, which was crucial in the final stretch of the game as the Bison tried to recover by fouling in the final minutes. Howard outscored FAMU 39-34 in the first half, but with a pressing defense and efficiency on the offensive end, the Rattlers outscored the Bison 50-37 in the second period.
McCullum hopes to carry the momentum into the heart of the MEAC schedule. When asked how good the win felt after the brutal non-conference early season schedule, McCullum replied “I don’t know if my vocabulary will allow me to expound. It feels really good. When you get a win, it has a way of making it all seem worthwhile.”
What’s next: FAMU is closely monitoring the winter storm set to move up to the northeastern United States as they are slated to travel to Baltimore this weekend to play Morgan State and Coppin State.