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Rattlers hold off Wildcats in a thriller

Posted: 7:52 PM, Feb 01, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-01 19:52:07-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fl. — Evins Desir scored 16 points and Nasir Core finished with 14 points as the Florida A&M University men's basketball team held off Bethune-Cookman, 73-67, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) game on Saturday at the Al Lawson Center.

Florida A&M (7-13 overall, 5-4 MEAC), which beat Bethune-Cookman at home for the first time since the 2012-13 season, led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but saw the advantage evaporate in the second half. Bethune-Cookman led by three points in the second half, but could not hold on as FAMU earned the MEAC victory.

Florida A&M (6-13 overall, 4-4 MEAC), which saw its two-game winning streak snapped on Monday, went over four minutes without a bucket in the first half as Norfolk State took a 42-23 lead into the half. The Rattlers closed the gap to 18 points in the second half but could not get any closer.

Desir finished just two points shy of tying his career high as he poured in 16 points, three rebounds, one block and one steal. Core tallied 14 points, three assists, two boards and two steals, while MJ Randolph recorded 11 points and nine boards. Brendon Myles and DJ Jones each registered 10 points.

Leon Redd paced Bethune-Cookman with 16 points, three rebounds and two assists. Cletrell Pope chipped in 14 points, six boards, one block and one steal, while Isaiah Bailey added 14 points, eight rebounds, one block and one steal.

How It Happened
Florida A&M led 10-6 after a Rod Melton, Jr. jumper with 13:24 remaining in the opening half, but Bethune-Cookman closed the gap to 13-10 after a bucket by Jordan Preaster with 12:05 left.

The Rattlers used a 17-5 run over the next five minutes to grab a 30-15 advantage after a Nasir Core three-point play with 7:42 left.

Bethune-Cookman closed the gap to 31-27 with just over two minutes left in the first half after a Preaster putback, but baskets by Evins Desir, Nasir Core and MJ Randolph pushed the margin to 37-29 with 40 seconds left.

However, the Wildcats finished the half strong with five straight points to cut the deficit to 37-34 at the half.

Bethune-Cookman took a 46-43 advantage after a Leon Redd layup with 16:23 remaining, but Florida A&M grabbed a 55-53 lead after a bucket by DJ Jones with 10:53 remaining.

The Rattlers used a 9-4 run over the next two minutes to take a 64-57 advantage, but back came the Wildcats, closing the margin to 65-61 after a Redd layup with just under six minutes left.

A Wali Parks jumper trimmed the deficit to 67-65 with 3:15 remaining, but the Wildcats could not get any closer.

FAMU got a free throw by Randolph and a layup by Core to push the advantage to 70-65 with just over two minutes left.

A putback bucket by Preaster cut the margin to 70-67 with 1:52 left and set the stage for a thrilling ending.

Redd missed a potentially game-tying 3-pointer and Core was fouled with 29.5 seconds left. Core sank 1-of-2 from the free-throw line and on the ensuing offensive possession for the Wildcats, Redd missed a layup as Core came up with the loose ball and was fouled.

Core sank both shots from the charity stripe and Florida A&M picked up a 73-67 victory.

Inside the Numbers
> Florida A&M shot 50.0 percent (26-of-52) from the floor and 63.0 percent (17-of-27) from the charity stripe
> Bethune-Cookman was 22-of-61 (36.1 percent) from the field and 21-of-29 (72.4 percent) from the foul line
> FAMU registered 40 rebounds, with 31 coming on the defensive end
> BCU pulled down 37 rebounds, including 24 on the defensive glass
> The Rattlers finished with 26 bench points, 22 points in the paint, 14 points off 12 BCU turnovers and 10 second-chance points
> The Wildcats recorded 28 points in the paint, 13 second-chance points, 10 bench points, six points off 13 FAMU turnovers and two fastbreak points

News and Notes
> Saturday's game was streamed live on FloSports
> FAMU defeated Bethune-Cookman at home for the first time since the 2012-13 season (75-67)
> Florida A&M improved to 99-63 all-time against Bethune-Cookman
> The Rattlers also improved to 43-16 all-time in Tallahassee against the Wildcats
> Florida A&M head coach Robert McCullum earned his second victory over BCU
> Florida A&M has faced two nationally-ranked programs so far this season – #10 Seton Hall and No. 21 Tennessee
> FAMU picked up a signature victory on Dec. 31 against Iowa State (70-68)
> The Rattlers have only played four of their 20 games at home this season

Up Next
Florida A&M will take a week off before returning back to action as the Rattlers play host to Howard on Feb. 8 at the Al Lawson Center. Tip-off against the Bison is set for 4 p.m.