Florida A&M pulls ultimate New Year’s Eve upset over Iowa State


Grant Tetmeyer/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore guard Rasir Bolton is fouled while trying to shoot the ball during Iowa State’s 73-45 victory over Southern Mississippi at Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 19.

Zach Martin

Iowa State had never lost to a team from the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference. It had beaten Florida A&M in the only prior meeting back in the 1989-90 season. It had won three of four games going into Tuesday night. 

All of that came to an abrupt and shocking halt on New Year’s Eve.

Rod Melton Jr. drilled the game-winning basket with 10 seconds left, the final two points of his team-high 20, to give the Rattlers their first win over a power-five team in school history, a stunning 70-68 upset over the Cyclones.

After losing nine in a row, Florida A&M (2-9) has won two straight.

“Really, not much to say outside of we weren’t very good tonight,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “No excuses, we got beat and you got to live with it.”

Think UMBC upsetting Virginia in the NCAA Tournament was the biggest upset in college basketball history?

Think again.

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) – which started in the 2007-08 season – the Rattlers had a 1.32 percent chance to win the game, making it the biggest upset between two Division I teams in the BPI era.

To add insult to injury, Florida A&M was 0-72 against major conference teams over the last 20 seasons and opened as a 25.5 point underdog at Westgate SuperBook.

The No. 324 ranked team by Ken Pomery went into Ames and picked up the biggest win the program’s history.

“We didn’t come out in the second half ready to compete,” senior guard Prentiss Nixon said. “Give credit to FAMU, they came out in the second half and put it on us.”

After Melton’s jumper, Iowa State ran down the court and lost the ball in the paint, resulting in a jump ball and alternate possession given to the Rattlers.

A quick foul with 1.8 seconds left sent M.J. Randolph to the charity stripe. After making the first for a two-point lead, he missed the second and the three-quarters court heave was wide right.

Florida A&M was sent into euphoria. D.J. Jones contributed 16 while Randolph and Kamron Reaves scored 13 and 10 points, respectively.

“We got to be able to not turn the ball over, make good decisions,” Prohm said, referencing the season-high 18 turnovers by the Cyclones. “Defensively in the second half, they can’t shoot over 60 percent from the field. Attention to detail on the defensive end.”

The night was bittersweet as Rasir Bolton scored 26 of his career high 29 points in the second half while shooting perfect from the beyond the arc and free throw line.

At one point, he scored 12 straight Cyclone points by getting into the lane, which opened his three-point shot.

“I was just trying to stay aggressive,” Bolton said. “I got into the lane, got some layups, they backed off and was able to hit a couple shots.”

Bolton’s career night was a blip on the radar for Florida A&M.

Each time Iowa State scored or tried to extend the lead past 13 points, the Rattlers hung around and responded.

They outscored the Cyclones 20-9 in the first 8:43 of the second half to grab a 44-42 lead, their first since being up 9-7 early in the first half.

“You got to defend, you got to rebound,” Prohm said. “We were stagnant on offense, the switching they did bothered us, but our pace was terrible… It’s on me, I won’t point fingers. I’m the head coach, I own it.”

The lead never got higher than six for the remainder of the game. Once Florida A&M broke a 50-50 tie, it had the lead for over six minutes.

Bolton cut the Iowa State deficit to one on two different occasions with his third and fourth three-pointer of the game. After a Randolph missed jumper, George Conditt was fouled and sent to the line.

Two makes later and Iowa State held its first lead since 10:23 left in the second half, 68-67. That would also be the last time it was in front.

Conditt had 12 points while Terrence Lewis chipped in 10 and a team-high eight rebounds. 

Iowa State (7-5) was behind the eight-ball before the game tipped off.

Leading scorer Tyrese Haliburton was ruled out of the contest with a sprained left wrist he suffered during practice three days ago. He is expected to play in the Big 12 opener on Saturday at TCU.

Inserted into the lineup was Lewis. His impact was immediate.

The 6-foot-6 junior guard scored the first five Iowa State points while grabbing a pair of boards and adding a steal in his first five plus minutes of court time. Still, it trailed by two at the first media timeout.

“In practice, we play with different lineups, so we’re used to not playing with Tyrese,” Bolton said.

Then, a 17-2 run ensued.

Nixon had five of his eight first half points during the scoring run and Conditt contributed seven during the spurt off the bench as Iowa State shot a collective 43.3 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes.

Still, Florida A&M hung around.

It crept within 10 points on three different occasions and went into the locker room only down nine, the closest it was trailing since Iowa State took a double digit lead midway through the first half.

“We missed a ton of easy opportunities,” Prohm said. “You can’t screw around with lineups, you got to knock teams out and we didn’t finish the first half well. I wanted to be up 15, we were up nine and that was really the difference.”

It was the final non-conference game for Iowa State and now the attention turns to Big 12 play as it travels to Fort Worth, Texas before hosting third-ranked Kansas four days later.

Prohm is hoping this turns into a blessing in disguise for his team.

“Kind of a defining moment,” Prohm said. “I told our guys ‘Where do we go from here?’ This game keeps going, we ain’t stopping. Figure out how to put these pieces together and get us better and get ready for TCU.”