Tampa - The Lady Rattlers (1-0) won their season opening over the University of South Florida Bull (0-1) 73-68 in overtime.
What was supposed to be a celebration of USF's 2008-09 WNIT Championship and the beginning of a new year in front of 1,148 in attendance, turned into a celebration by the Lady Rattler as the visitors in the Sun Dome. Not even USF's senior Jessica Lawson's 11th double-double (14 points and 17 rebounds) was not enough to quench the thirst and STRIKE of the Lady Rattlers. Lawson received a sixth year of eligibility this summer.
2008-09 MEAC All-Rookie Team selection sophomore Antonia Bennett led all players on both teams with 19 points. She also chipped in 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists and 1 blocked shot.
Although the Bulls opened the game with a 9-0 run, the Lady Rattlers responded with 3 three-point field goals to take the lead, 13-11. FAMU went on a 22-7 run after the Bulls initial opening run and took a 27-23 lead into the half.
The Lady Rattlers would not give up the lead until 12:36 of the 2nd Half at 37-35. But, the game would remain close until USF pulled the score out to 51-44 at the 6:21 mark. The Lady Rattler would then slowly chip away at that lead, but things looked somewhat bleak when Bennett fouled out with 3:42 remaining in the game. The Bulls thought that they had this game well in hand until the final seconds of regulations when senior guard Deidra Jones hit the game tying 3-pointer with 7 seconds remain.
In overtime, the Lady Rattlers proved to be too much. With pressure basketball, big plays and big shots from Jones, sophomore forward Qiana Donald, sophomore guard Tameka McKelton, and senior transfer point guard LaShonda Gaines, the Lady Rattlers outscored the Bulls 12-7 in the overtime stanza and the last 6 points to come away with the win.
The Lady Rattlers hold an 11-5 edge in the all-time series, but had lost the last two games in the past decade.
Donald led the Lady Rattler in rebounding recording a double-double with 11 rebounds and 11 points. She also contributed 3 steals. Jones added 6 points, 7 steals, 5 assists and 2 blocked shots. Gaines added 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. McKelton added 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assist and 2 steals. Freshman forward Simone Durden also logged 29 minutes in her Lady Rattler regular season debut adding 8 points and 8 rebounds. The Lady Rattler shot 32.9% from the field, 35% from 3-point range and 66.7% from the free throw line, and held the Bulls to 31.6% from the field, 26.3% from 3-point range and 59.1% from the free throw line for the game.
For the Bulls, Melissa Dalember led the Bulls with 16 points and 11 rebounds, recording her second career double-double.
The Lady Rattlers next have back-to-back home games at the Lawson Center against Savannah State on Thursday, November 19 at 6:00 pm, followed by a Monday, November 23 clash against Albany State at 7:00 pm.