If Arkansas-Pine Bluff has learned one thing about playing Alabama State last season, it’s that a large lead doesn’t faze Alabama State.
But it does help.
Last Feb. 6, UAPB raced to a 19-point lead at home against the Hornets and weathered a big comeback to take a 62-61 victory. At the time, that was the biggest lead of the season for the Golden Lions and a highlight in a heated season series that went three games with neither team winning by more than six points. UAPB won the season series 2-1, capping it with a 60-56 overtime win in last March’s SWAC quarterfinal.
“I kind of expect the same, similar situation against Alabama State,” Lions coach George Ivory said Saturday, one day ahead of their meeting with Lewis Jackson’s Hornets. “We just have to keep up our intensity. One thing about coach Jackson, he’s a great coach and his teams are well-coached.”
Alabama State (4-11, 2-0) is coming into tonight’s game on a three-game winning streak, having already beaten Jackson State and Grambling State in conference play. The Hornets, however, are looking for their first win on the road this season.
Tonight’s game will be the second of a three-game homestand for UAPB (2-11, 1-0 SWAC), which ended a nine-game losing streak Wednesday with a 79-64 win over defending conference champ Mississippi Valley State.
Similar to last year’s home game against Alabama State, UAPB built a 19-point lead against a defending conference champion on Wednesday. This time, it was a 19-0 start to the game that gave the Lions plenty of confidence going forward.
“I thought they came out with a lot of focus and determination,” said Ivory, whose team scored multiple baskets off turnovers to build the early lead against Valley.
UAPB also had its best shooting game of the season, hitting 49 percent from the field. For the season, it shoots 35.7 percent while allowing opponents to make 43.1 percent.
“We shot it very well,” he said. “We came in with a different focus on that.”
The Lions also have found more offensive weapons in recent games. Center Terrell Kennedy has emerged as the leading scorer on the team at 13.7 points per game, despite playing only in six games because of a foot injury. He had 25 points Wednesday night.
Forward Davon Haynes, who was the scoring leader for much of the nonconference slate, is now third on the team at 10.9 per game, while guard Lazabian Jackson is second at 11.2. Ivory said after the Valley game opponents have started to sag against Haynes, but he wants the junior to take more shots.
“Our offense is not geared toward one person, but if one player gets hot, we’ll go to that player,” Ivory said.
UAPB will close out the homestand against Alabama A&M on Tuesday. The Bulldogs made noise last Sunday with a 59-57 victory at Mississippi State.