Pine Bluff coach Carl Smith wasn’t even sure the last time his team had played before Thursday night’s home game against Bryant.
Regardless, the Zebras showed no rust despite the layoff.
Pine Bluff had three players score 16-plus points and held Bryant to 12 points or fewer in all but one quarter en route to a 71-51 win at McFadden Gymnasium.
“We made the game look easy tonight,” Smith said.
Pine Bluff (10-8, 5-3 in 7A/6A-South) started off hot and rarely cooled down over the 32 minutes thanks to some unselfish team basketball.
“We’ve been working on shooting and it’s paying off,” Smith said. “It makes the game different, if we can do that.”
A 9-0 run in the first quarter helped the Zebras open up a 20-11 lead after one. In the opening quarter, Marcus Thomas hit a pair of three-pointers for Pine Bluff and Ladarius Skelton also connected from long-range.
“They played zone the whole time up there,” Smith said referring to the teams’ first meeting in Bryant. “We didn’t shoot it well that night, so they were able to dictate the pace.
“Tonight we hit some threes and forced them to go man.
“Tonight was a good game. A good style for us to play.”
Halfway through the second quarter, it looked like Pine Bluff might put the game out of reach.
The Zebras had built a 30-15 lead when Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson called a timeout, and the Hornets (10-10, 6-3) responded with a 10-0 run.
Pine Bluff answered with a 7-3 run over the first half’s final 40 seconds. The run began with a no-look pass from Thomas to J’Marlos Johnson for an and-one dunk and ended with a Thomas three-pointer with less than two seconds on the clock.
Coming out of halftime with a 37-28 lead, Pine Bluff went for the knockout punch with a 14-0 run to begin the second half.
“Once you get some turnovers, it motivates the players,” Smith said. “Our guys were very unselfish and that makes it easy for us.
“The baskets come easy, because we’re sharing the ball and finding the open man.”
The sharing of the wealth led to Thomas finishing with 17 points and Johnson and Roosevelt Murray finishing with 16 each.
On the other side, freshman Desmond Duckworth led Bryant with 14 points and C.J. Rainey added 12.
Pine Bluff may have had a long lead up to Thursday night’s game, but the Zebras face a quick turnaround.
Pine Bluff will take on Little Rock Fair tonight, and Smith hopes his team can bring the momentum and confidence they gained on the road with them.
“We have to understand where the easy shot is,” Smith said. “… Tonight all of them were unselfish, so hopefully they can carry that over.
“I’m over here on the sideline, so it will be up to them to keep it going.”
Pine Bluff 48, Bryant 38
Ajia Richardson’s 15 points helped lead the Fillies to a 10-point home win Thursday night.
Richardson scored nine of her points in the fourth quarter as Pine Bluff improved to 16-5 and 6-2 in the 7A/6A-South.
The Fillies, who received 12 points from Jasmyn Eckermann, trailed 9-8 after one quarter before recovering to lead 20-15 at halftime and 32-23 entering the fourth.
Jakeria Otey and Aubree Allen scored 11 points apiece for Bryant (7-12, 3-6).