Aggies next to challenge FAMU’s home win streak
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Apart from the decades-old rivalry, coach Robert McCullum knew his FAMU men’s basketball team was in for a tough test from Bethune-Cookman University.
As it turned out, the Rattlers needed every point they got from Nasir Core at the free-throw line in the closing minutes to hold off the Wildcats 73-67. Until Saturday, FAMU had not beaten B-CU at home since the 2012-2013 season.
The Wildcats (10-11, 4-3) had rallied twice – late in the first and again in the second half. The second-half rally resulted in a three point lead for Bethune-Cookman before the Rattlers regained the lead for good.
The Rattlers (6-13, 5-4) led by as many as 15 points in the first half.
“We knew we had our hands full,” McCullum said following Saturday’s win at Lawson Center. “I think Bethune-Cookman is the most athletic team in the conference; one of the most talented with a lot of experience.”
The win extended the Rattlers’ unbeaten streak at home to four. They will play their next two games at Lawson Center, taking on Howard on Saturday and North Carolina A&T on Feb. 10.
The Aggies, 11-12, 7-1 after beating Norfolk State last Saturday, are coming into the game as the first-place team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
In Saturday’s game, the deciding plays against the Wildcats were all by Leon Redd and Core.
Just before Core was fouled with less than 30 seconds left, the Wildcats’ Redd missed a three-pointer that could have tied the game. Core hit one of two at the line.
Redd missed another opportunity with a layup on the next Wildcats’ possession. Core was fouled in the scramble for the loose ball.
Core hit both shots at the line to turn away the Wildcats.
Evins Desir led FAMU with 16 points, two off his career high. Core had 14 points to go with three assists, two rebounds and two steals. MJ Randolph scored 11 points and nine rebounds, while Brendon Myles and DJ Jones each added 10 points for the Rattlers.
FAMU managed to stave off the Wildcats while three of its starters, including Desir, carried four fouls each in the second half.
“We pride ourselves on being a deep team,” said Core, a senior who came off the bench in his last home game against the Wildcats. “We might not have the best five on the court all the time but we have the best 10 or 12 rotations.”
The Rattlers’ bench contributed 26 points. Bethune-Cookman got 10 from its reserves.
Redd scored 16 points to lead Bethune-Cookman, and Cletrell Pope chipped in 14 points.
Pope, who came into the game as the nation’s leader in offensive rebounds, was held to six. In fact, the Rattlers beat the entire B-CU team on the boards, 40-37, although the Wildcats got 13 second-chance points.
Being able to put down two rallies by the Wildcats – especially during the stretch when it had to go with three players one whistle from being fouled out – proved the resilience of his team, McCullum said.
“Good teams; when a player has an off day or early foul trouble, have someone that can come off the bench and give you a lift,” he said “Nas is senior and he is one of our team leaders.”