Dawn of a New Season: Lions raise game to start SWAC play

Arkansas-Pine Bluff won’t play another basketball game until Saturday, so easing the negative talk after a (usually) brutal nonconference schedule was of great importance.

“It takes a big load off us,” point guard Tevin Hammond said this past Saturday after UAPB pulled out a 78-73 win against Mississippi Valley State in Greenwood, Miss. “We’ve been on a 10-game losing streak, and it was very urgent that we needed to win today, just to start conference play on the right path.”

The win marked the second straight year the Golden Lions (3-10, 1-0 SWAC), who hadn’t won since defeating Morehouse (Ga.) on Nov. 11, began SWAC play with a victory. To beat Valley (4-10, 0-1), the Lions had to do a few things better than in previous games.

For one, they had to get Davon Haynes going on the offensive end. Haynes made 10 of 12 field-goal attempts and 6 of 8 free throws for a career-high 26 points. Haynes had been on an 8-for-28 shooting slump from the floor the past two games against Iowa and Auburn, although he finished with 11 points in each.

“He’s a key part to our success we have, which is getting him going,” Hammond said. “I think it’s a big thing to us winning.”

Hammond, who had 12 points (including 10-of-13 free-throw shooting) Saturday, led the Lions in scoring the past three games, but coach George Ivory said the junior from Little Rock looked to distribute the ball more to teammates. Hammond only one assist, however.

“We still look for Tevin to do his normal thing,” Ivory said. “Overall, I think he did a good job of getting the ball to Davon in certain areas. We’ve just got to get better at rebounding and taking care of the basketball.”

The fast pace didn’t entirely help the Lions, whose 25 turnovers against the Delta Devils was way more than their 17.8-per game average. Opponents have outrebounded the Lions by a 37.1-27.5 average, and the Devils continued the domination trend with a 37-22 advantage.

But UAPB enjoyed its best shooting performance of the season Saturday, hitting 57.8 percent from the floor. Its previous high was 46.2 percent in a 77-63 loss at Oregon State on Dec. 13.

Senior center Daniel Broughton went 4 for 4 off the bench in his first game in more than two weeks. He had 14 points.

“I thought Daniel responded well coming off the bench and shooting the basketball pretty decent,” Ivory said. “Anytime you get 14 points from him and Davon, that’s a good thing. We’ve just got to get everybody rolling on the same page.”

But it’s the turnovers that concern Ivory more, although opponents have averaged more miscues than the Lions this season.

“We’re getting six- or seven-point leads and committing turnovers, not holding the ball strong,” Ivory said. “We’ve just got to get better at that part of it.”