Another slow start dooms Hornets against Russellville

Bryant's Tim Floyd shoots over Russellville's Hunter Hawkins, 32.By Rob Patrick

For the Bryant Hornets, a pattern has evolved this season. If they shoot well and get off to a good start, they'll be there in the end and have a chance to win.

But a slow start has been like poison to them. They struggle to stay in the game. They struggle to catch fire offensively showing a tendency to force shots trying perhaps to make up 4 points for every 2-point attempt, 6 for every 3-point try. They struggle to stop the other team, taking a few too many gambles that get them out of position or suffering a drop in intensity. And they struggle to get to the free-throw line so they can make up ground with the clock stopped — a problem they have even when things are going well. This isn't a physical, attack-the-rack kind of team even though much of the offense they run is designed to get to the hoop through hard backdoor cuts, crisp screens and snappy passing. The execution wanes when things don't start well. 

The team's two games against the Russellville Cyclones are indicative. At Russellville, the Hornets shot their way to an 11-4 lead right away and, in the end, they had a chance to win only to suffer a heartbreaking 62-60 loss.

On the return game at Bryant on Tuesday, Feb. 10, however, managed just one basket over the first 5:40 of the contest and fell behind 12-2. They never led as Russellville eventually built as much as a 22-point lead and won 53-38.[more]

Both losses cut deep into the Hornets' chances of making a third consecutive trip to the Class 7A State Tournament. With a win in the first meeting, the Hornets would've been off to a 2-1 start in the 7A-Central, with the momentum of back-to-back wins heading into the most rugged stretch of their league schedule.

Instead, the loss made them 1-2 going into that stretch and, as it turned out, 1-8 coming into Tuesday's rematch, desperately in need of a win to kindle their fading hopes. It would be a win over one of the teams they had a realistic chance of catching in the fight for the last playoff slot.

But that poor start proved too much to overcome much to the deep disappointment of the Hornets and coaches Mark Smith and Chad Withers.

The loss left the Hornets 7-15 overall, 1-9 in the conference with four games left in the regular season, all against first-division teams. Worse, they've been swept by the two teams they would have the best chance of catching in the standings, Russellville and Little Rock Catholic. 

Connor Rayburn drives into the lane against Russellville's Branden Turner.

When Dontay Renuard hit a 3-pointer at the 2:18 mark in the first quarter, the 12-5 score felt like no big thing to overcome. But Russellville's 6-5 post player hunter Hawkins hi a pair of free throws, blocked a shot by Bryant's Tim Floyd and, moments later, got free inside for a bucket that make it 16-5 going into the second quarter.

K-Ron Lairy made a steal to start the second and quarter and Floyd cashed it in with a jump hook over Hawkins, but then the Hornets didn't score for over five minutes. Fortunately, the Cyclones had cooled off as the Hornets tightened the defense. The lead grew to 21-7, however, before Floyd scored again and Dijon Benton canned an 18-foot jumper to make it 21-11 at the half.

But when Russellville put together a 9-0 run to start the third quarter, the Hornets never got it back that close the rest of the way. A three-point play by Lairy and a 3-pointer by Cameron Whaley interrupted the Cylcone surge but it was 33-17 going into the fourth quarter. 

And just over two minutes into the final period, Russellville had built its largest lead at 44-22, sparked by point guard A.J. Broadnax and Hawkins.

It was 50-30 when Smith started entering his reserves. It was 51-31 when Russellville's Joe Sitkowski cleared his bench. Baskets by Tyler Brown, Tyler Gattin and Kyle Nossaman in the final 1:05 finished the game on a 6-0 run for the Hornets.

Hawkins led Russellville with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Broadnax finished with 15 points and Blake Harris 8 including a pair of 3's early in the game to help get the Cyclones off to their good start.

Russellville out-rebounded the Hornets 35-16 with 11 boards on the offensive end. 

Lairy led the Hornets with 9 points. Floyd had 8. Bryant finished 5 of 12 from the free-throw line but had attempted just three from the line through three quarters. 

Bryant visits Conway on Friday, Feb. 13.

RUSSELLVILLE 53, BRYANT 38

Score by quarters 

Russellville 16 5 12 20 — 53

BRYANT 5 6 6 21 — 38

RUSSELLVILLE (9-12, 4-5) 53

Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls. pts.

o-d-t

Broadnax 3-8 7-8 0-1 1 3 15

Harris 3-8 0-0 0-2 2 1 8

Woestman 1-6 2-2 1-2 3  2 5

Klein 2-3 0-0 0-4 4 4 4

Hawkins 7-7 5-7 4-9 13 1 19

Turner 0-0 0-0 1-2 3 0 0

Robinson 0-1 0-0 1-0 1 3 0

Hughes 1-2 0-1 1-0 1 0 2

P.Webb 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Neal 0-0 0-0 0-2 2  0 0

Savage 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Smith 0-0  0-2 0-1 1 0 0

Heilman 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 0 0

B.Webb  0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Team rebs. 0-2 2

Totals 17-37 14-20 11-24 35 16 53

BRYANT (7-15, 1-9) 38

Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls. pts.

o-d-t 

Lairy 3-7 1-1 2-1 3 2 9

Parish 0-3 2-2 0-0 0 3

Floyd 4-8 0-0 0-1 1 3 8

Butzlaff 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 0

Renuard 2-4 0-1 0-2 2 2 6

Benton 1-2 0-0 0-2 2 5 2

Whaley 1-4 0-0 1-1 2 0 3

Whitfield 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 1 0

Prescott 0-1 2-4 0-0 0 2 0

Nossaman 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 2

Rayburn 0-0 0-3 0-1 1 0 0

Stitch 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 2 0

Gattin 1-2 0-1 0-1 1 0 2

Brown 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2

Team rebs. 0-2 2

Totals 14-35 5-12 3-13 16 22 38 

Three-point field goals: Russellville 5-21 (Broadnax 2-7, Harris 2-7, Woestman 1-3, Klein 0-1, P.Webb 0-1, B.Webb 0-1), Bryant 5-19 (Lairy 2-5, Renuard 2-2, Whaley 1-4, Parish 0-3, Floyd 0-1, Benton 0-1, Whitfield 0-1, Nossaman 0-1, Gattin 0-1). Turnovers: Russellville 15, Bryant 10. 

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