Lazabian Jackson enjoyed two of his best offensive performances this past Saturday and Monday.
The Arkansas-Pine Bluff senior shooting guard, who averages 11.7 points per game, scored a season-high 20 against both Alabama State and Alabama A&M, helping the Golden Lions to victories. What was really impressive in both games is how well he shot the ball from three-point range.
He hit 6 of 9 against Bama State and 5 of 8 against A&M, numbers not indicative of a 31.1-percent perimeter shooter.
“I’ve just been really focused and putting a lot of time in,” Jackson said. “… But now that we’re playing at home, I’ve got a lot of time at home to work out.”
He didn’t have as much time when UAPB played all of its nonconference games away from home. Funny thing is, Jackson’s big numbers against the Alabama duo came on the road.
These weren’t just any other road games for Jackson. This was his second ride into his home state for SWAC play.
“Just really concentrating in the back of my mind, I wasn’t recruited by either one of the teams,” said Jackson, a Eufaula, Ala., product, who transferred to UAPB last season from Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. “So I came out with a chip on my shoulder.”
Said UAPB coach George Ivory: “He’s a guy who every time he goes home, he wants to play well.”
Jackson is also coming up big on the defensive end along with his backcourt mate, sophomore transfer Tevin Hammond. The two are first and second in the SWAC in steals per game with Jackson’s 2.6 and Hammond’s 2.3, but both have gone well above those averages in recent games.
“Me and Tevin, we’re in a competition with each other of who’ll lead in steals,” Jackson said. “We’re really pushing each other to get more steals.”
That competition will be on display again Saturday when UAPB hosts Southern for a share of the lead in the SWAC. It will be UAPB’s first home game in almost three weeks.
UAPB also will host Alcorn State on Monday in a live ESPNU broadcast.
Hammond had six swipes to go along with eight assists at Alabama State, topping his previous season high of five steals in the season opener against Houston Baptist. Two nights later in Huntsville, Jackson had five steals against A&M, marking the fifth time in the past six games he’s registered three or more.
“They’re just great competitors,” Ivory said. “They’re ready to play defense. They get after it. They take pride in it.”
Hammond thinks the recent steals totals come from his and Jackson’s ability to play off each other.
“We’re running that 2-3 (zone), and we play at the top and everything runs off us, so we try to keep up the intensity to pick up our teammates to play better defense.
“Our defense creates an easy offense for our teammates.”
Hammond, a former all-stater at Little Rock McClellan, also makes his mark as an assist man.
He ranks fifth in the SWAC with 3.9 assists per game, but has dished out four or more in four of the last five games, including five against A&M.
He said part of his 13-assist surge in the past two games comes from getting Jackson the ball as much as possible against the Alabama teams.
“He works off the ball really well,” Hammond said. “Knowing how he works, he shoots in the gym every day and works out every day. I just really trust him and try to look for him most of the time when he’s out there. My scheme is really looking for Zay.”
That’s plenty of respect given to a player who’s only third on the team in scoring per game to Terrell Kennedy (14.2) and Davon Haynes (12.2). But Jackson has more than earned it with his 14-of-25 field goal shooting (56 percent) the past two games.
Then again, Jackson also prides on finding the Lions’ hottest hand.
“We have a team full of scorers,” he said. “On any given night, it can be anybody’s night. So we look for whoever’s night it is, and we feed off that.”
Southern at UAPB
• When: Saturday, women’s game at 5 p.m.***, men’s game at 7:30 p.m.***
• Where: H.O. Clemmons Arena
• Records: Women, Southern 11-11, 10-1 SWAC; UAPB 7-14, 3-8. Men, Southern 16-7, 10-1; UAPB 10-13, 9-2.
• Last meetings: Women, Southern 67-44; men, Southern 84-50, both at Baton Rouge, on Jan. 12
*** Correction: The game times for Saturday have been updated from the original schedule.