HONOLULU — Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s season opener in men’s basketball nearly ended with a come-from-behind victory.
UAPB stormed from a 10-point deficit to draw within 68-66, but clutch free throws helped Houston Baptist hold off the Golden Lions for a 72-68 win Friday night in the opening game of the Rainbow Classic.
Center Terrell Kennedy, in his first game for UAPB after missing all of last season with a hand injury, led the Lions (0-1) with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 2 of 5 from three-point range. Tevin Hammond and Davon Haynes added 14 and 13 points, respectively, in their UAPB debuts, and Lazabian Jackson chipped in 12.
Mitchell Anderson was held to six points on 3-of-8 shooting.
UAPB led 53-52 with 9:53 remaining before Houston Baptist (1-0) went on a 10-1 spurt over the next 4:48. James Harper, who had 11 points off the bench, drained a three-point basket to give the Huskies their largest lead at 68-58.
The Lions scored eight unanswered points in less than a minute on a jumper by Jackson, a pair of Hammond free throws, a Haynes dunk and Jackson layup. Marcel Smith and Marcus Davis each hit two free throws to bump the lead back up to 72-66, and UAPB couldn’t come any closer after Jackson hit another jumper with 13 seconds to go.
UAPB shot 26 of 61 (42.6 percent) for the game, but was cold from the perimeter (4 of 16). The Lions struggled shooting free throws, converting only 12 of 25.
Houston Baptist had a colder shooting night from the field, going 25 for 65 for 38.5 percent, but hit 17 of 25 free throws.
Both teams had 28 points in the paint, while UAPB managed to outscore Houston Baptist off turnovers, 16-14. The Huskies led 30-28 at halftime in a game where the score was tied 11 times and the lead changed 17 times.
Davis scored 22 points and Harper added 11 to lead the Huskies.
UAPB’s next game in the Classic is at 9 p.m. Central Sunday (5 p.m. Hawaii time) against host Hawaii, which played Maryland-Eastern Shore late Friday night. UAPB will close its tournament stay Monday night against UMES.