Junior forward Matthew Hezekiah tossed in a team-high 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while senior guard Khalif Toombs chipped in 17 points and six assists but it wasn't enough as the Bulldogs dropped a tough, 89-77 defeat to the Rattlers of Florida A&M Monday at Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
South Carolina State falls to 4-14 overall, 0-5 in the MEAC, while Florida AM improves to 5-14 overall, 2-3 in the league.
"We are on our opponent when it comes to pressure situations down the stretch," said SC State head coach Tim Carter. "You can't win when you constantly turn the ball over."
Junior guard Jamie Adams led the charge for the Rattlers with a game-high 28 points, while teammate freshman forward Trey Kellum recorded the games only double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 23-18 lead off a layup by sophomore forward Luka Radovic at the 8:52 mark in the half. Toombs tossed in a pair of free-throws to give SC State their biggest lead seven, 25-18.
A tip-in by Kellum followed by a driving layup by junior guard/forward Jomari Bradshaw sparked an 24-4 run by Florida A&M to move ahead by 13, 42-29 with 0:46 seconds left in the first-half. Sophomore guard Devin Joint nailed a 3-pointer as time expired in the first-half to cut the lead to seven, 42-35.
SC State took an early lead in the second-half on a tip-in by freshman forward Darryl Palmer at the 10:28 mark. The Rattlers pulled away by five, 64-59 off a 3-pointer by Adams with 8:17 remaining.
A pair of free-throws by Kellum increased FAMU's margin to 10, 81-71 with 2:04 remaining in regulation. SC State committed 16 costly turnovers down the stretch, which resulted in an 89-77 defeat to the Rattlers.
Carter stated, "We are a young team but at some point we have to grow up and become more mentally and physically tough."
Radovic grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds and tossed in eight points, while Palmer finished with 15 points and five rebounds in the loss. SC State dominated the glass out-rebounding FAMU 46-30 on the night.
South Carolina State will return to action on Saturday when they host the visiting Tigers of Savannah State in a pivotal Mid-Eastern Athletic doubleheader. Tip-off for the women begins at 4 p.m., with the men following immediately after.