The South Carolina State Bulldogs gave the Rattlers of Florida A&M all they could handle, before coming up short in a 75-72 defeat in double overtime Monday at the Al Lawson Center.
"It was an epic battle throughout the contest on both ends of the floor, "said head coach Murray Garvin. " We played tremendous down the stretch and great team effort."
The game was close throughout with 23 lead changes and 13 ties in the contest.
Hezekiah tossed in a jumper to give the Bulldogs an early 20-19 lead at the 7:20 mark in the first half. A monster alley-hoop dunk from senior point guard Khalif Toombs to Palmer over a Rattler defender put SC State ahead three, 24-21 with 4:24 remaining.
Palmer responded again on another alley-hoop dunk this time from teammate sophomore guard Devin Joint to push the Bulldogs lead to seven, 28-21 at the 3:36 mark. FAMU cut the lead to two off a 3-pointer by guard Reggie Lewis with a 1:21 left in the half. Sophomore forward Luka Radovic closed out the first-half with a tip-in with 0:24 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a 30-26 lead at intermission.
FAMU guard Muhammad Abdul-Aleem kept the Rattlers within striking distance knocking down back-to-back jumpers to take the lead 51-50 at the 6:59 mark. Palmer tossed in a jumper with 3:52 left in regulation to push the lead to three for SC State, 56-53.
Lewis jumper followed by a free-throw by Abdul-Aleem tied the game for the eighth time of the night 56-56. Hezekiah closed the gap tossing in a pair of free-throws from the charity stripe to put the Bulldogs ahead by two, 58-56 with less than 1:14 left in regulation.
The Rattlers once again turned to the hot shooting of guard Muhammad Abdul-Aleem to decide their fate. Abdul-Aleem responded nailing a jumper with 0:50 seconds left in the contest to tie the game 58-58 and force overtime.
FAMU took the lead early on in the overtime with forward Trey Kellum converting on a jumper to take the lead, 60-58. Toombs responded with a jumper followed by a pair of free-throws by Palmer to go up two, 62-60 with 1:27 left in the game.
A tip-in by forward Walter Davis with 0:52 seconds left put FAMU ahead by one, 64-63. The Bulldogs efforts of forcing overtime or winning the game came to life as Joint was fouled by Davis with 0:51 seconds left. Joint converted on 1-of-2 from the charity stripe to tie the game for the 12th time and force the second overtime of the night.
SC State opened the overtime in full control jumping out to a four point advantage, 68-64 off a dunk by Palmer followed by a slicing layup by Joint at the 4:08 mark. Lewis long range 3-pointer cut the lead to one, 72-71 with 2:48 remaining in the second overtime.
Rattler guard Jamie Adams gave FAMU the go ahead basket with 2:27 left to take the lead, 73-72.
Once again costly turnovers down the stretch doomed the Bulldogs in the closing seconds. Lewis along with Adam's hitting a free-throw put FAMU in position to seal the 75-72 victory over Coach Murray Garvin's team.
Garvin stated, "We were just a play or two away from winning the game. I love my team and the coaching staff. Now it's time to move on and get ready for N.C. A&T this week."
SC State dominated in rebounding (SC State 45, FAMU 39), while committing 19 costly turnovers down the stretch. Toombs finished with 14 points, five rebounds, and four assist on the night.
FAMU was led in scoring by guards Reggie Lewis with a team-high 21 points, while Abdul-Aleem added 17 in the victory. The Rattlers improve to 8-19 overall, 5-8 in the MEAC, while the Bulldogs fall to 5-21 overall, 1-12 in the league.
SC State will close out its four-game swing next week on the road against rival N.C. A&T Saturday, before taking on NC Central Monday in a pivotal Mid-Eastern Athletic doubleheader. Tip-off for the Aggie game is 4 p.m., immediately following the women's contest.