A lesson was learned from Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s 84-50 loss at Southern on Jan. 12.
“We were too complacent or whatever,” senior guard Lazabian Jackson said. “We came in thinking we were going to win without even playing the game first. Now, we’ve got our eyes opened.”
UAPB had a right to believe it could win in Baton Rouge. The Golden Lions had won their first three conference games — including two over the past two SWAC tournament champions — by 15 or more points and shot close to 50 percent from the field each time. They were off to their best start in SWAC play since joining the league for the 1997-98 season.
But Southern took advantage of UAPB’s lack of transition defense and shot 62.5 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes, putting away the cold-shooting Lions (who hit only 24.1 percent before halftime) after they already trailed 33-20. Five Southern players scored in double figures while only two had 10 or more points for UAPB.
It was a humbling experience for the Lions.
“We’re real humble,” Jackson said. Now we know we can’t just walk in the gym and win. We have to stay focused and keep working.
Now, the Lions (10-13, 9-2 SWAC) have a shot at avenging that loss, which cost them first place outright in the conference and their first-ever 4-0 start in SWAC play. UAPB and Southern will tip off at approximately 7:30 tonight at H.O. Clemmons Arena, and the Lions can take a share of first place in the SWAC from the Jaguars (16-7, 10-1) with a victory.
Asked what has to happen against the Jaguars that didn’t at their place, Jackson said: “We want to come in and want to win with a chip on our shoulder.”
A win for the Lions also will improve their home record to 6-0 on the season. It’ll be their first home game after playing their last four on the road.
“You don’t have to say much this week to get them ready for this game,” UAPB coach George Ivory said.
The Lions just know what they have to do.
“We have to get back on defense,” sophomore guard Tevin Hammond said. “Last game, they kept us in transition defense, scoring the ball off transition. We weren’t getting back. I think we’re going to do a better job of that. When we get back on defense and make them play halfcourt, I think we do a way better job.”
UAPB’s defense will have to rise to the occasion against Southern’s Malcolm Miller (16.9 points per game) and Derick Beltran (16.5), the second and fourth-ranked leading scorers in the conference. UAPB’s top scorer, Davon Haynes (12.2), is 14th in the league.
While UAPB has won six of seven since the blowout at Southern, conference play just hasn’t been as easy for the Lions as it was in the first three games of the slate.
They’ve won four games by single digits and lost another by 15 points to a Jackson State team that’s now ranked eighth in conference standings. UAPB either had to withstand late rallies or find a way to pull away late in most games, and it’s overcome a few poor shooting performances from the field and free-throw line.
But Ivory said the Lions haven’t overlooked any team as they awaited another shot at Southern.
“We’ve just been taking it one game at a time,” Ivory said.
Chances of overturned ban undetermined
UAPB has six games remaining after tonight’s contest, and it’s not known whether there is a chance of the NCAA overturning the team’s postseason ban for a low Academic Progress Rate.
Ivory said Thursday the school is in the process of sending in corrected information used to re-figure the Golden Lions’ APR. He said he has received no timeline on when the NCAA may make a decision.
UAPB, according to Ivory, also turned in corrected information last May, one month before the NCAA handed UAPB and nine other Division I teams a postseason ban for the same infraction, but the coach said then it was likely the Lions would still be penalized. Why UAPB has had to resend the information isn’t clear.
Of the 10 penalized teams, two come from the SWAC (Mississippi Valley State is the other), and one — Cal State-Bakersfield — has had its ban overturned. If UAPB remains banned for the postseason, the SWAC tournament will include only seven teams because Texas Southern must sit out as part of its NCAA-enforced sanctions mainly for lack of institutional control.