TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Freshman forward Trey Kellum scored on a tip-in of a missed shot as the buzzer sounded to give the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Rattlers a 46-45 win over the Howard University Bison Feb. 16 in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) men’s game at the Al Lawson Center in Tallahassee, Florida. The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Rattlers (7-19, 4-8 in the MEAC) while the Bison (6-20, 3-9 in the MEAC) dropped their second straight by a two-point margin.

In a closely-contested game that featured six lead changes and with neither team leading by more than seven points, Junior center/forward Alfonso Leary put Howard ahead, 45-44 when he made one of two free throws with 7.1 seconds on the clock. Florida A&M inbounded the ball and pushed it up the court. Junior guard Muhammad Abdul Aleem attempted a shot from the right side but it came off the rim to Kellum who tipped it in as the buzzer sounded. The officials conferred briefly at half court and decided that the shot was gotten off in time.

“This was a tough way to lose, especially in back-to-back games,” said disappointed Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry. “It comes down to the same thing. We have to be mentally tough enough to make free throws down the stretch and get defensive stops. In six games this year, we have been one free throw or defensive stops from victory.” Howard missed nine second-half free throws.
It was another gritty performance for the undermanned Bison, who has been plagued by the injury bug all season. Starting point guard Simuel Frazier, a freshman, suited up for the first time in three games after sitting out with a hamstring injury. He did not start but he played 34 minutes and scored five points, dealt out three assists and recorded four steals.

But Howard’s task proved to be more challenging when team-leading scorer Mike Phillips, a senior forward, picked up two quick fouls at the start of the game and had to sit out. Phillips came into the game averaging 13 points per game, but he finished with only three points before fouling out.

The slack was picked up by senior guard Anton Dickerson, who tallied nine of his team-high 11 points in the first 20 minutes. Both teams went stretches without scoring and each possession was a test of wills. Howard was able to maintain a slim lead through most of the game until Florida A&M used a 6-0 run to take a 44-40 lead at the 4:56 mark.

The Bison responded as Dickerson converted on two of three from the free throw line and sophomore swingman Prince Okoroh later tied the score 44 on a tip-in with 2:03 on the clock.

The Rattlers were led by junior forward Jamari Bradshaw who had a game-high 13 points and junior guard Reggie Lewis who contributed 10.

Leary had a strong game, just missing a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds. Okoroh finished with nine, seven coming in the second half.

Howard has little time to dwell on the loss. The Bison face Bethune Cookman on Monday, Feb. 18 in Daytona Beach.

“I’m confident that these guys will be ready to go against Bethune. These are the moments we have to look adversity in the face.”

Ed Hill Jr.

Special to the AFRO