GAME NOTES: The 10th-seeded Florida A&M Rattlers take on the seventh-seeded NC A&T Aggies in first-round action of the 2013 Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference Tournament on Tuesday night at Norfolk Scope Arena.
Awaiting the winner in Wednesday's quarterfinal round is second-seeded North Carolina Central.
FAMU endured a rough season, as it finished league play with a 5-11 mark, and it sits with an 8-22 record overall. The Rattlers ended the season on a three- game road swing, losing all three, including the regular-season finale at Morgan State, 78-67.
NC A&T showed plenty of promise this season, as it went a solid 8-8 in the MEAC and 15-16 overall, but it failed to reach the upper-echelon in the league due to its lackluster road record (5-12). Despite winning their last five home games, the Aggies also dropped their final five away matchups, including a 55-48 final at Norfolk State in the regular-season finale.
NC A&T swept the season series with FAMU this year, most recently claiming a 64-56 decision at home on Feb. 11. As a result, the Aggies lead the all-time series, 42-25.
The Rattlers found themselves down by 17 points less than nine minutes into their regular-season finale and could never recover, as they were outshot from the field by Morgan State, .516 to .429. Muhammad Abdul-Aleem was the team's top performer, coming off the bench for 16 points, while Jomari Bradshaw (13 points) was also impressive logging his share of reserve minutes. On the season, FAMU has a strong offense by MEAC standards, ranking fifth in the league in scoring 65.4 ppg, but it is also plagued by the conference's worst scoring defense (72.3 ppg). Jamie Adams nets 14.0 ppg, but does so behind a woeful 34.4 percent shooting effort. Reggie Lewis brings 10.5 ppg to the table, and Bradshaw and Abdul-Aleem chip in with 9.3 ppg apiece.
The Aggies fought hard against first-place Norfolk State in their finale, but they ultimately dropped the defensive struggle by shooting just 31.6 percent from the field. Bruce Beckford was impressive despite the team's poor offensive showing, as he tallied 16 points and nine rebounds, while Jean Louisme tacked on 13 points and five boards, but also committed five turnovers. NC A&T is relies on its defensive approach, which ranks fourth in the league in yielding just 61.7 ppg, because its offensive effort (61.8 ppg) ranks in the bottom-half of the league. Leading the defense is Austin Witter, who grabs 7.2 rpg and swats away three shots per contest and was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year as a result. Lamont Middleton (12.2 ppg), Adrian Powell (12.2 ppg) and Louisme (9.6 ppg) serves as the unit's top scorers, but none shoot better than 39 percent from the field.
As it did in the regular season, NC A&T shouldn't have much of an issue running past FAMU in this one, using its strong defense to put an end to the Rattlers' season.
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