HOUSTON – Arkansas-Pine Bluff struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half of Thursday night’s Southwestern Athletic Conference quarterfinal game.
Although the fourth-seeded Golden Lions (13-18) improved from 24.1 percent shooting in the first half to 41.7 percent in the second, it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback in a 69-50 loss to fifth-seeded Alabama A&M (14-15) at the Toyota Center.
“Alabama A&M came out and executed well in the first half, and we came out flat,” Golden Lions coach George Ivory said. “It’s hard to come back when you miss a lot of shots (early).”
UAPB junior guard Tevin Hammond finished with a team-high 14 points, 10 assists and five steals, while Bulldogs senior Brandon Ellis led four A&M players in double figures with a game-high 18 points.
The Bulldogs snapped UAPB’s three-game win streak and moved closer to achieving its first NCAA Tournament in nine years. They’ll face eighth-seeded Prairie View A&M at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals.
No. 2 Texas Southern and No. 3 Alabama State will meet in the other semifinal.
Ivory said the most telling statistic was A&M’s 46 rebounds to the Golden Lions’ 27.
“You can’t beat anybody when you rebound like that,” Ivory said.
UAPB, which was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, will return most of its players, with the exception of senior forward and Pine Bluff native Daniel Broughton, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds in his collegiate finale.
Earlier in the day, Golden Lions forward Davon Haynes was named second team all-conference. Haynes, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds in the loss, will apply to the NCAA for an extra season of eligibility, said Ivory.
Haynes, who grew up in Detroit, had played in the Detroit Pistons’ Palace of Auburn Hills when he was in high school but said playing in his second NBA arena was special.
“It’s the SWAC Tournament, so it was exciting,” Haynes said.
Ivory said he was proud of his team and glad they got to experience the tournament at the Toyota Center, where it will be played for at least the next two seasons.
“These guys showed a lot of character,” Ivory said. “They came out and played hard. I told them to keep their heads up.”
The Golden Lions swept the Bulldogs during the regular season, winning 72-64 in Huntsville, Ala. on Jan. 11 and 64-61 on Feb. 8 at the H.O. Clemmons Arena.