NORFOLK, Va (Mar. 9) –The No. 4 seeded Florida A&M Rattler Women (13-18) won for the fifth time in six games Thursday, putting on a torrid fourth quarter scoring surge to eliminate No. 5 Norfolk State, 80-73 here at the Scope Arena.
Head coach LeDawn Gibson said she had to fire up her team to get them going. “I had to use some choice words to jolt my team into action. They just came out flat. After challenging our spark plug, forward Shakerrya Morrison, it spilled over to the rest of the team. I never have to get Victoria (Nguyen) going, I actually have to calm her down most of the time. At some point I felt we were in sync and we began to play Rattler basketball,” Gibson said.
Thursday’s come-from behind victory sends the Lady Rattlers to the semifinal round for the first time since 2012, where they will face archrival and No. 1 seed Bethune-Cookman (20-9), which opened their tournament title bid with a 59-49 win over Savannah State Wednesday.
Florence Outtara got the scoring ball rolling int he first half, hitting two three-pointers. Victoria Nguyen led the offense from he point guard position, distributing the ball as well as efficient scoring.
FAMU rode a 25-17 fourth quarter surge to victory, led by Sweeting and Nguyen with 16 points each, Ouattara with 15 points, along with stellar rebounding from senior Alicia McCray with 13, and junior Shakerrya Morrison with 12.
FAMU trailed through the first three quarters as homestanding Norfolk State took a 24-18 lead after one, and held a 43-35 edge at halftime. FAMU began its comeback in the third period, outscoring NSU, 20-13, to pull within one point, 56-55 with a quarter to go.
The Rattler Women took a five-point lead, 62-57 on a Ouattara three- pointer with 6:36 left, and led by a slim 64-61 count at the fourth quarter media timeout.
FAMU then staged a 16-12 finishing flurry to ice the game and advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2012.
FAMU TOURNAMENT BITES
@ The Rattlers advanced to Friday's 12 noon semifinal against arch rival and top-seeded Bethune Cookman (20-9).
@ It will be the third meeting between the two teams, with the Lady 'Cats winning both previous meetings, including a 66-53 win in Daytona Beach last Thursday (March 2).
@ FAMU’s Thursday victory vaulted them to the semifinals for the first time since 2012, and the ninth overall.
@ FAMU owns a 29-23 record all-time in MEAC Tournament play, having won the title in 1995 and 1999.
@ The Rattler Women are 3-1 in the Tournament against Bethune- Cookman, having lost in their last matchup, 53-41 in the opening round of the 2015 Tourney.
@ FAMU’s MEAC Tournament semifinal appearances came in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2017.
@ Head Coach LeDawn Gibson led FAMU to two previous semifinal appearances – 2009 and 2012.... The 2009 tourney was Gibson’s first season at the helm, and the 2012 campaign saw her squad come into the event as the No. 2 overall seed.
@ Should FAMU advance past Bethune-Cookman on Friday, they would be making their first MEAC Tournament finals appearance since 1999.