Arkansas-Pine Bluff has been tested in its last four men’s basketball games.
That was to be expected against Texas Southern in a battle for second place in the conference Jan. 19. Since then, the Golden Lions have all but won in convincing fashion.
In a 55-51 home win over Prairie View A&M, UAPB never led by more than nine points and took the lead for good with less than 4 minutes left in the game. UAPB was tied with winless Grambling State with 6:11 left before outscoring the Tigers 24-12 to come away with a 79-67 win.
Against Jackson State, luck wasn’t on the Lions’ side. UAPB never led in the final 29 minutes and suffered an 82-67 defeat that snapped a four-game winning streak. It left the Lions without a share of first place in the SWAC with Southern.
But UAPB still has much to play for, even with a postseason ban from the NCAA still in place.
Today, it begins its second round of SWAC games with a weekend in Alabama, taking on Alabama State at 5 p.m. today and Alabama State at 7:30 p.m. Monday to conclude a four-game road swing. UAPB is a game behind Southern in conference standings, still eligible for the regular-season championship.
UAPB has already defeated both teams this season as part of a 3-0 start to conference play. Since, the Lions have remained one of the top two teams in the conference while the Alabama teams have been jockeying for position in the middle of the 10-team pack.
The Lions are looking for more consistent play out of their starters. Center Terrell Kennedy is coming off a season-high 31 points against Jackson State, hitting 14 of 17 from the foul line. He leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game.
Also, guard Tevin Hammond had 20 points at Grambling State, showing a glimpse of his ability to lead on offense. He only averages 7.1 this season.
Alabama State has lost two straight, a 74-72 decision at Prairie View and a 97-65 blowout at Texas Southern. With only one player averaging in double figures (Joshua Freelove, 12.7 points), the Hornets are looking for more scoring options.
If UAPB and Southern win out today and Monday, that will set up a second meeting for first place between the two on Feb. 9 in Pine Bluff. Southern won the first game 84-50 in Baton Rouge, La., last month.