UAPB’s Terrell Kennedy shoots over Mississippi Valley State’s Matt Smith during the first half Wednesday. (Special to The Commercial/Mike Adam)
Who said Arkansas-Pine Bluff can’t shoot the ball well?
The Golden Lions had a better-than-usual shooting performance in their first home game of the season Wednesday. They hit seven of their first eight field goals and raced to a 19-0 lead against Mississippi Valley State en route to a 79-64 victory in the SWAC opener at H.O. Clemmons Arena. The huge lead became the Golden Lions’ largest of the season.
The Lions (2-11, 1-0 SWAC), who ended a nine-game losing streak, only cooled off to 25-for-51 shooting from the field for 49 percent, their best such performance this season. They also set an aggressive tone defensively, turning their takeaways into easy baskets in building the early lead. “I thought they came out with a lot of intensity, showing they were glad to be home, it looked like,” Lions coach George Ivory said. “They really came out and played defense. I was impressed with that.”
UAPB, which had 13 steals to Valley’s seven, looked nothing like a team that struggled in nonconference play.
“Our nonconference schedule is tough every year, and that prepares us,” said Terrell Kennedy, whose 25 points Wednesday are the most scored by a Lion this season. “Our record shows it, but it doesn’t really show what we go through. Playing the big schools prepares us for when it comes time to play in the SWAC.”
UAPB even shot better than usual from the foul line, nailing 23 of 32 (71.9 percent) including 10 in a row during the second half.
Kennedy pulled down four rebounds in 32 minutes to lead the Lions. He was 6 for 6 in free throws.
Lazabian Jackson contributed 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while Marcel Mosley netted 10 points off the bench and Tevin Hammond chipped in nine points and four steals for UAPB.
Jackson knocked down four three-point baskets, as UAPB went 6 for 17 behind the arc.
This was the teams’ first meeting since Valley courted Ivory for its head coaching position in June, and the first SWAC regular-season game for both teams since UAPB spoiled Valley’s bid for an undefeated conference record last March. Valley (0-11, 0-1) has yet to win with an almost entirely new cast, boasting only one returning player in Blake Ralling. But it was Davon Usher, a junior guard and the team’s leading scorer on the season, who got the Devils back in the game with eight unanswered points after UAPB’s fast start. Usher, who had a season-high 35 points against Northwestern in November, finished with 19 Wednesday. Matt Smith added 17 off the bench, including the Devils’ first six points of the second half.
Like UAPB, Valley had gone through its own harsh nonconference slate but nearly defeated new Big 12 member TCU 67-64. Though the Devils pulled within 54-51 against UAPB, it still took them a while to respond to the Lions’ early start.
“They came out, hit us in the mouth, and we didn’t respond,” Devils coach Chico Potts said. “They came out with energy, they came out with discipline, knowing what they wanted to do and they did it.”
Valley hit 20 of 44 from the field for 45.5 percent, including 7 of 18 from 3-point range, and 17 of 27 from the line for 63 percent.
LION NOTES: UAPB sophomore guard Chandler Savage, a Pine Bluff High alumnus, made his third appearance of the season. He had one rebound and no points … Junior center Daniel Broughton played 6 minutes Wednesday, still seeing limited action as he recovers from surgery on his injured knee. The Watson Chapel graduate fouled out with 7:05 left. … UAPB will host Alabama A&M at 6 p.m. Sunday. Alabama A&M stunned Southeastern Conference perennial power Mississippi State 59-57 this past Sunday.