Double-digit leads and Arkansas-Pine Bluff have not gone together very well this season. And it didn’t help the Golden Lions that they fell out of sync.
But, as another recurring theme, they recovered and picked up a close win at home.
The Lions, who once led 25-13, scrapped from a brief 11-point deficit and took a 64-61 victory over Alabama A&M on Saturday at H.O. Clemmons Arena for a season-high third straight win. But they had to keep from collapsing again in the final minute.
“I think we got comfortable again,” UAPB coach George Ivory said. “Alabama A&M is a great basketball team, and I thought the guys fought back with a lot of toughness and a no-die attitude.”
After Brandon Ellis made two free throws to pull the Bulldogs (8-12, 5-5 SWAC) within 64-60, UAPB’s Tevin Hammond lost the ball near midcourt in a trap. But A&M scored just one point off the turnover.
Hammond, known for his clutch defense, overthrew Davon Haynes on a press-break the next time down, but made a steal on the baseline before colliding with two Bulldogs and losing the ball out of bounds. Ellis missed a three-point shot, and Demarquelle Tabb was called for a charge with 0.2 second left, effectively ending the Bulldogs’ hopes.
“I think we were just playing a little too fast,” said Hammond, who committed six turnovers — three in the final minute — but tallied 11 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
UAPB’s Marcel Mosley and A&M Jeremy Crutcher each scored 20 points in a showdown of two of the SWAC’s premier guards. Mosley, who scored a season high, added six rebounds in 39 minutes of action.
Crutcher tried to steal the show from long range, hitting 5 of 5 three-point attempts and going 7 for 11 total from the field. He had eight steals, one more than Mosley had Monday against Jackson State.
The Bulldogs disrupted the Lions’ early rhythm and went on a 21-2 run to climb out of a 12-point hole, building a lead as big as 37-29 in the first half. UAPB broke an 8-minute field goal drought and pulled within 37-35, but the Bulldogs hit four free throws in the final 29 seconds of the period to take a six-point lead into the locker room.
Reserve guard Tyler Davis sparked the big Bulldog run with eight unanswered points.
A trey by Crutcher gave the Bulldogs a 54-43 lead, but the Lions soon found a cure for its offensive collapse.
“We were attacking more and making plays for each other,” said Hammond. “Coach just kept us more aggressive and told us to stay attacking, don’t just settle for jumpers and all that.”
The Lions started out more aggressive to loose balls and got center Daniel Broughton involved on offense early with nine first-half points. He finished with 11 points and had seven rebounds.
“I was just knocking down more shots, being aggressive on the offensive end,” Broughton said.
Haynes played his fifth straight game with a fractured right hand and scored only two points, but grabbed four rebounds and made two steals.
With Prairie View’s 85-77 win against Texas Southern on Saturday, that created a five-way tie including those two teams, UAPB, Alabama A&M and Alcorn State. UAPB hosts second-place Alabama State (14-7, 8-2) on Monday.
GOLDEN LION NOTES: The game was stopped three times in the first half because the bottom of the net was tangled on the rim after a three-point shot. … Hammond, the SWAC’s steals-per-game leader, had two steals Saturday, while second-place Mosley finished with none. … UAPB made its first nine free throws but finished 17 of 25 (68 percent). The Lions hit 20 of 44 from the field (45.5 percent), including 7 of 17 from the arc. The Bulldogs made 21 of 52 field goals (40.4 percent) including 7 of 18 from three-ball range and sank 12 of 16 free throws (75 percent). … A&M’s bench outscored UAPB’s 28-14. … Attendance was 3,088, a season low for UAPB home games.