HAMPTON, Va.-Hampton put together its most complete game of the season, defeating Florida A&M 77-68 Saturday at the HU Convocation Center.
Ramon Mercado led four Pirates in double figures with 18 points, while Dwight Meikle and Deron Powers each had 16. Du'Vaughn Maxwell added 12 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots before being ejected for his second technical foul with 6:28 remaining.
Markee Teal, who had just four points at halftime, had a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Rattlers, with Jamie Adams adding 20.
The Pirates (13-15, 10-4) shot 38 percent (24 of 63) overall, but made 44 percent in the second half as they clamped down defensively on the Rattlers, holding them to just 34 percent (21 of 62) from the field and causing 18 turnovers.
Mercado, who made four 3-pointers, put an emphatic stamp on the game with a breakaway dunk to put the Pirates up 57-39 with 10:03 remaining.
Hampton pulled away from the Rattlers in the second half, up by 20 points at 65-45 with 7:31 remaining. However, the Rattlers scored 12 of the next 14 points to cut the lead to 67-57, and got the lead down to nine in the final seconds, but didn't get any closer.
The Pirates led 5-2 early, but the Rattlers went on an 11-0 run to take a 13-5 lead with 11:45 in the first half.
The Pirates scored 10 of the next 12 points, fueled by two Mercado 3-pointers, to tie the game at 15-all with 6:14 left in the half. Another Powers free throw and another Mercado 3-pointer put the Pirates up 21-18.
After a 3-point play from D'Andre Bullard to tie the game at 21-all, the Pirates closed the half with nine of the last 11 points to go into halftime with a 30-23 lead, Mercado leading the way with nine points, all on 3-pointers.
Hampton was strong defensively for much of the game as Maxwell blocked four shots and was a key player in the Pirates holding the Rattlers to just 25 percent first half shooting (9 of 36).
In the second half, the Pirates extended their lead to 14 points in the first four minutes, as Aaron Austin started off with a 3-pointer before a Ke'ron Brown to Maxwell alley-oop, two Deron Powers free throws, a Brown tip-in and a Maxwell layup put the Pirates up 42-28.
The Rattlers didn't truly threaten until after Maxwell's ejection, but the Pirates built enough of a cushion and were too strong down the stretch.
The Pirates close out the regular season at home with games against Bethune-Cookman Monday and Mar. 7 against North Carolina Central. The Rattlers finish their season on the road Monday at Norfolk State and Mar. 7 at Morgan State.
NOTES: Hampton came into the game in fourth place in the MEAC at 9-4 (12-15 overall), while Florida A&M stood ninth in the 13-team conference. ... With a win Saturday over Florida A&M, Hampton's women's basketball team clinched the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season title. They were honored with the unveiling of a 2012 NCAA tournament banner, their third-straight NCAA appearance.