For all that Arkansas-Pine Bluff has done to work its way back into contention for the SWAC regular-season championship, its hopes will take a bad hit today if it doesn’t defeat Texas Southern for the second time this season.
If the Golden Lions shoot as well as they have the past three games — better than 50 percent each time — there might not be a bad hit.
“We’re taking better shots,” coach George Ivory said. “We’re running our offense. We’re getting into the second and third passes on our shots. We’re not just taking the first shot. We’re executing a lot better. And I think that’s attributed to the guys playing together and really understanding each other.”
The Lions (12-13, 11-2 SWAC) have been in sync, wanting to make this season count with a regular-season SWAC title and a winning record. If they win today, their win percentage will reach .500 for the first time in three years.
When the game is over, UAPB will either remain at the top of SWAC standings (alone or with Southern) or trail Texas Southern (11-14, 10-2) by a half-game. UAPB won the first meeting with Texas Southern 66-63 on Jan. 19 in Pine Bluff, but the Tigers have won six straight since by an average of 27.2 points per game.
Neither win in that streak has come against Southern, but behind the strong play of Omar Strong and Fred Sturdivant, Texas Southern has established itself as a serious contender in the SWAC race. Strong, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, has turned in a 33-point game against Prairie View A&M and 27-point against Alabama State, both in Houston. Sturdivant, a 6-7 senior, has dominated the boards with 10 or more rebounds in three of the last four games.
It was only a week ago that UAPB moved into a tie for first place with Southern via a 55-52 home victory. It wasn’t quite three weeks ago UAPB last lost a game, suffering an 82-67 defeat at Jackson State.
But life has been good for the Lions in the 19 days since that loss. Shooting guard Lazabian Jackson reeled off three straight 20-point games, point man Tevin Hammond has been on a tear in assists and Davon Haynes regained his scoring touch as UAPB has won four straight.
Haynes, who averages 11.8 points per game, doesn’t mind that he went scoreless against Southern. He knows his team is deep in scoring threats.
“We have a lot of weapons,” he said. “We have a lot of people who can score. Our team is that good where I don’t have to score the ball. It makes my job a lot easier. I do other things like block shots, get rebounds. Everybody shares the ball a lot.”
UAPB at Texas Southern
• When: Today, women’s game at 11 a.m.; men’s game at 1:30 p.m.
• Where: H&PE Arena, Houston
• Records: Women, UAPB 9-14, 5-8 SWAC; Texas Southern 14-9, 11-1. Men, UAPB 12-13, 11-2; Texas Southern 11-14, 10-2.