FAMU’s Bernard developing penchant for stealing
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Almost every time that FAMU seemed to be in peril of losing for the sixth time in seven games, Malcolm Bernard was able to keep them in the game against Morgan State University.
Oh, sure he had his usual double-digit night with 12 points. But it wasn’t all his offensive ability that helped preserve a 75-62 conference win for the Rattlers this past Saturday at the Lawson Center.
Bernard tied his season-best five steals on a night when Treavann Warren produced the offensive spark with 15 points.
The five steals by Bernard gives him 45 going into Monday night’s game against Coppin State. He might not come close to matching former Rattlers Aldwin Ware’s 142 steals that was the best single-season at any level of college ball.
But Bernard is hanging with some of the best collegiate players when it comes to snatching the ball. He is currently ranked seventh in the nation in take-aways.
“We need him in a big way,” said coach Byron Samuels. “He’s played every position this year. At each one he has given us something. I’m thankful he is on our side.”
The light came on after the fourth game of the season when the Rattlers were on a road swing through Texas, Bernard said. Focusing more on defense, especially taking the ball away, was the next phase of his development as an all-around player, Bernard said.
“I try to make a conscious effort to do more and get steals,” he said. “I felt that was going to be the bread and butter for me.”
It certainly was against the Bears.
Bernard’s first two steals came in consecutive order and they were key to FAMU slowing a run by the Bears and forced the fourth tie in the first half.
“I thought I had to play very tenaciously on defense and get our team going because we didn’t have that much energy,” Bernard said. “Our offense comes from our defense, which is getting in the passing lane, getting steals and in transition.”
He had another take-away in the first quarter with just over two minutes left when Morgan was threatening to widen the gap.
Morgan had to settle for a 30-27 lead at the half.
The Bears were up by six points when Bernard had his final steal with 8:48 left to play. FAMU then went on a 5-0 run to pull within one, 51-50.
After Morgan forced one more tie, the Rattlers barely missed from the free-throw line to put the game away.
In addition to his steals, Bernard had eight assists, most of them down the stretch. But it was Bernard’s handout to reserve Isaiah Omoregie that proved to be his biggest assist.
After Omoregie got the layup, FAMU got a stop on the other end then Omoregie nailed his second straight field goal to put the Rattlers on top 62-59 with just 1:13 left.
That Bernard has been increasingly finding ways to demonstrate unselfishness in the way he gets the ball off hasn’t been lost on his teammates. Neither is the way he gets it back from the opponent.
“When he is on the floor, we have a breath of fresh air because we know he is going to do his job,” said Warren. “We all have responsibilities, but when he is on the floor he makes sure he keeps everybody in check. He is a major piece as to why the motor keeps going.”