GREENWOOD, Miss. — Tevin Hammond needed to redeem himself on a night when one of his teammates scored a career high.
Hammond, who had hit 10 of his first 11 free throws, missed both ends of a double bonus with 23.6 seconds left and Arkansas-Pine Bluff hanging on to a three-point lead. Seconds later, he picked Jeffrey Simmons’ pocket at mid-court for his third steal of the game and fed Chandler Savage for the open, put-away dunk as the Golden Lions escaped with a 78-73 win over Mississippi Valley State on Saturday.
“I needed a big play,” said Hammond, the Lions’ leading scorer on the season who finished with 12 points, but went 1 for 6 from the field. “I knew it was going to come down to a big play, and I was the first one that made it.”
With Hammond’s redemption, senior forward Davon Haynes made his game-high 26 points count.
That is a career high for the Detroit product, who made 10 of 12 field goals and 6 of 8 free throws. Haynes also had a team-high five rebounds.
“I felt like I felt every game, just ready to play and get into the offense, just ready to get the ball in the hole,” Haynes said. “My teammates looked for me and (I had to) score the ball.”
Valley coach Chico Potts said the Delta Devils didn’t play close-enough attention to the scouting report on the forward, who transferred from Bowling Green three years ago.
“We knew he likes to drive the ball to the right, and that was the first thing on our scouting report,” Potts said. “Pretty much every basket he got, he was going right. Just the ability to stick to the game plan, we didn’t do a good job of it.”
The win ended a 10-game overall losing streak for the Golden Lions (3-10, 1-0 SWAC) and is their first against a Division I team this season. It also extended their winning streak against the Delta Devils (4-10, 0-1) to three games. This latest edition of the SWAC’s inner-Delta rivalry was played at the Leflore County Civic Center as Valley’s on-campus arena, just a few minutes west of here, undergoes renovations. Just like their previous meeting, an overtime win for the Lions in Itta Bena to secure a 16-14 record, this was one to remember.
“We played through adversity,” UAPB coach George Ivory said. “We played tough. That was the biggest thing when Tevin got that steal. We’ve got to keep getting better. We have some areas to work on, especially rebounding, and being patient with the basketball.”
UAPB led 74-64 with 53.7 seconds left after Hammond sank a pair of free throws. Simmons, Valley’s rising star playing in his hometown, completed a three-point play almost 7 seconds later, and after UAPB threw the ensuing inbounds pass out of bounds, D’Angelo Priar hit a couple of foul shots to pull within 74-69.
Both teams traded bonus shots before UAPB freshman Ghiavonni Robinson, a Leflore County High School graduate, missed a pair. James Currington finished the transition with a jam to shorten the Lions’ lead to 76-73.
Simmons led the Devils with 20 points, hitting 7 of 13 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the line. Robinson went scoreless, going 0 for 3 in 21 minutes.
One of the worst scoring teams in the nation, UAPB shot 57.8 percent from the floor (26 of 45) and 71 percent from the line (22 of 31) in scoring its season high. The previous high came in a 67-54 win against Morehouse (Ga.) in November.
Jaylon Floyd helped with the Lions’ solid shooting, scoring all of his six points in the first 3:04 as UAPB tallied 11 unanswered after a 6-0 deficit, the Devils’ largest lead. The Lions built their largest lead, 24-12, after a DeAndre McIntyre layup with 9:34 to go before intermission.
Valley, though, hit 11 of 12 free throws the rest of the half as it clawed to within 40-39 at intermission. Priar, who totaled 16 points, had scored eight straight Valley points at one stretch in the half.
The Devils went in front, 45-43, for their first lead since the 18:57 mark of the first half thanks to back-to-back Blake Ralling jumpers, but Haynes led a 9-0 Lions run with seven of his own. The Devils pulled to within one point twice, but never led again.
UAPB center Daniel Broughton, playing his first game after missing the last two to rehabilitate his injured knee, had 14 points off the bench. He made all four of his field-goal attempts and all four of his free throws.
Marcel Mosley added nine points for UAPB, which hit 4 of 13 three-pointers.
Currington added 11 points and seven rebounds for Valley, which made 24 of 54 (44.4 percent) from the floor including 4 of 21 from three-point range and 21 of 30 free throws (70 percent).
The Devils also were hounded by 25 turnovers to the Lions’ 20, but outrebounded the visitors 37-22 despite giving up 57.8 percent field-goal shooting.
“It’s a will to play defense,” Potts said. “My guys, we have a block up there that we’re so anxious to get to the offensive end, but we’re not paying attention to the details of the defense. … Until that gets better, we’re going to struggle.”