Haynes’ game picks up down stretch

With Davon Haynes’ injured hand — and his game — improving, Arkansas-Pine Bluff has all its scorers in good health for its final road trip of the regular season.

Not perfect, but good health.

Haynes scored in double figures in each of UAPB’s last two ballgames. That’s big news because the senior forward, who had led the team in scoring before fracturing his hand in late January, hadn’t done that in five previous games, including a scoreless game at Alcorn State almost two weeks ago.

UAPB coach George Ivory said Friday that Haynes’ health is about 80 percent, but he’s been playing as if he’s at full strength, returning to his usual explosive form. He had 17 points in a win over Prairie View A&M last Saturday and 15 in a loss to Texas Southern two nights later.

“He’s playing through pain,” Ivory said. “He’s a tough kid.”

Haynes’ return to form comes at a time when UAPB (10-17, 8-7 SWAC) tries to build one more winning streak going into the SWAC tournament. Although the conference hasn’t officially announced it, all 10 teams — including NCAA tournament-banned UAPB, Mississippi Valley State, Grambling State and Southern — are expected to participate in the March 11-15 event in Houston.

“We’re trying to get a good seed in the tournament,” Ivory said.

The Lions, who are tied with Alcorn State for fourth place in the SWAC, are playing to maintain a top-four finish. With games at Grambling State tonight and Jackson State on Monday, they could be reminded how tough it is to hold a spot in this league.

Last-place Grambling State (3-20, 2-12) had lost 45 straight games against Division I teams until stunning Alcorn State 95-80 on Feb. 10. That’s one of two wins the Tigers picked up in their last four games; the other was an 83-81 decision at Prairie View on Feb. 17.

Junior guards A.J. Shine and Antwan Scott have consistently led the Tigers’ offensive attack this season, both averaging more than 14 points per game. When UAPB edged Grambling 66-64 on Feb. 1 in Pine Bluff, they still reached double figures while Terry Rose paced the Tigers with 7-for-14 field-goal shooting and 19 points.

“We’re going to try to keep our focus and cut the threes out (that Grambling shoots),” Ivory said. “We have to guard the three-point line and keep our focus offensively, have no droughts. We go 2 to 3 minutes without scoring.”

The Lions won’t rely solely on Haynes for more production. Ivory is asking his leading scorer, junior guard Marcel Mosley (13.3 points per game), to take at least 15 shots each game.

“He’s such a great offensive player,” Ivory said of Mosley, who’s had three 20-point games in his last six outings. He can make a lot of things happen as far as scoring and helping others score.”

UAPB will visit Jackson State on Monday, taking on a team that’s won two straight and is only 1½ games behind the Lions in league standings. UAPB won the previous meeting 70-69 last month.