3-0 In The SWAC: Haynes, Golden Lions hammer way to best league start

It’s not yet dunk contest time, but Davon Haynes got his highlight reel started Tuesday.

The explosive junior forward for Arkansas-Pine Bluff threw down four dunks and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds in helping the Golden Lions defeat Alabama A&M 77-61 at H.O. Clemmons Arena. The win wrapped up an undefeated three-game homestand for a team that went into it on a nine-game losing streak.

If anything is more impressive than Haynes’ dunks, it’s the Lions’ fast start in SWAC play. They are 3-0 in the league for the first time since moving to Division I before the 1997-98 season and improved to 4-11 overall.

It’s a high note for a team still hoping that the NCAA will overturn its ban from postseason play.

“The guys came out real focused,” UAPB coach George Ivory said. “They’re playing so good together. That’s what I really like a lot. Anytime you get 20 assists, (limit yourself to) nine turnovers and get 11 steals, that means you’re doing a lot of good things.”

Haynes said the Lions have been getting their energy from the defensive end, where they forced a majority of the Bulldogs’ 20 turnovers in the game.

“It starts on defense,” Haynes said. “We come out with intensity on defense, and it carries over to the offensive end.”

UAPB’s Terrell Kennedy led all scorers with 18 points, while Daniel Broughton added 13 points and 10 rebounds and Lazabian Jackson and Mitchell Anderson each netted 10 points. This was the second straight game Broughton registered a double-double.

But Haynes took center stage with his air show. His biggest crowd-pleaser came with 4:44 left in the first half, when he took off from about 10 feet away to beat a defender to the hole for a one-hand jam. That was his second of three dunks in a 3-minute span.

“I knew he was going to try to go under me,” Haynes said. “I just wanted to take off.”

All but one of Haynes’ dunks came in transition, which UAPB took advantage of to open a big lead. The Lions led 47-28 at halftime and had their biggest advantage — of the season — at 61-34 with 14:17 left in the game.

Alabama A&M (6-9, 2-2 SWAC) pulled within 65-51 with 7:07 left, but came no closer to the lead from there.

“We attacked their trap, and that’s what we tried to go from the get-go,” Bulldogs coach Willie Hayes said. “But we turned the ball over, and they capitalized off our turnovers.”

Demarquelle Tabb led the Bulldogs with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Jeremy Crutcher followed with 15 points and five assits and Justan Banks added 11 points and 12 boards.

UAPB had maybe its best free-throw shooting performance of the season, hitting 14 of 18 for 77.8 percent. Ivory called it “a blessing to see.”

The Lions hit 30 of 72 field goals for 41.7 percent, but went 3 for 14 from three-point range.

Alabama A&M shot 19 of 47 from the field (40.4 percent) including 6 of 15 from three-point range and hit only 17 of 29 free throws for 58.6 percent.

UAPB will play at Southern on Saturday and Alcorn State on Monday.