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.
"We had a slow start at the beginning, but we put together two good halves," said Hampton coach Ed Joyner, Jr. in breaking down the win.
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, but no one else had more than seven.
"Unfortunately, nobody (else) was hitting the basket," said Florida A&M coach Clemon Johnson. "Markee Teal was able to give us some valuable points, but in the end, we were unable to get anybody else scoring tonight."
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.
"In the beginning, we were running our offense, plays running very effectively, defensively playing well," Johnson said. "Then Ramon ... came in and started knocking down 3's, and all of a sudden, we lost our composure."
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.
"One big thing is that Ramon has become consistent for us," Joyner said. "We need that consistent option, and not just 3-point shots. He's doing a little bit of everything."
Hampton pulled away from the Rattlers in the second half and was 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 they 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 left 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.
"We put together three or four stops, regain the lead and then compose ourselves," Joyner said. "We were able to get the stops we needed."
After a three-point play from D'Andre Bullard tied 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 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 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.
"He's an emotional player," Joyner said. "You've got to live with the good and the bad with him, but luckily we had it in hand. It was kind of two-fold for us. We lost him and I didn't want that, but because Meikle and (Wesley) Dunning got to play some pressure-filled minutes for us."
The Rattlers, struggling to find the right combination, will try to shake things up as they finish out the regular season on the road Monday at Norfolk State and March 7 at Morgan State before the MEAC tournament the following week.
"We're still trying to fight," Johnson said. "We're at the end of the season and we're still trying to find consistency. Monday, I'm going into another game with a different lineup, because again I just didn't like what I saw tonight, a lack of effort. All I need is effort."
The Pirates hope the win and strong all-around effort are signs of things to come. They close out the season at home against Bethune-Cookman Monday and March 7 against North Carolina Central.
"We've got to stay focused, continue to work and play," Joyner said. "That's it. I don't know that there's a golden rule for it. We've just got to continue to play, and play hard."
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 for their third-straight NCAA appearance.