Floyd, bench sparks Hornets
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
HOT SPRINGS — The Bryant Hornets haven’t had a lot of depth in recent seasons so it’s a welcome change for head coach Mark Smith that this season’s group can go nine or 10 deep without much, if any, dropoff. It’s allowed Smith and assistant Chad Withers to go with the hot hand, the players that are doing the best job at the time. And, as Smith said, “The guys understand that and that’s one of the best things about it.”
Before Christmas, there hadn’t been much playing time for 6-4 sophomore Tim Floyd but, on Thursday, Dec. 28, in the opening game of the Summit Bank Spa City Classic, he got a chance and made the best of it. Floyd came off the bench to score a game-high 13 points and match the team-high in rebounds with five to spark the Hornets to a 53-51 win over the White Hall Bulldogs.
In fact, Floyd and juniors Hunter Sample and Brandon Cowart came off the bench to combine for 28 points for the Hornets.
“Obviously, Tim Floyd was a big boost,” Smith acknowledged. “Tim is so athletic. It has kind of taken awhile for him to get used to this system but we feel like he has now and we feel comfortable putting him in. And he really responded great. Tim can jump, he’s long and he can score. He stepped out and hit a 3, really gave us some more balance than what we’ve had.”
Sample added 10 points hitting five of seven shots from the field. Chad Knight had 12 points and Jeremy Nordman 9. Cowart added 5 and played perhaps his best floor game as the Hornets point guard this season. Bryant had a season-low eight turnovers.
“That was probably the key,” Smith stated. “I thought Brandon stepped in and did a real good job. Chad carried us early when we needed to score then Jeremy hit two big free throws. The free throws were good to us today. They’ve kind of been our nemesis but that’s something we’ve got to get better at.”
The Hornets were 14 of 22 at the line including 7 of 11 in the fourth quarter when they surged to the victory. Nordman’s free throws with :15.8 to play extended the Hornets’ lead to 53-49, making it a two-possession game so when White Hall scored with :06 showing, and the Hornets got the ball inbounded, the game was over.
“Really, I thought the biggest difference in the game was we played together as a team, it was teamwork,” Smith asserted. “Everybody was working together, moving the ball. Everyone was helping each other out, talking to each other, communicating. You know, when five guys play together, they’re hard to beat. You leave people out on an island, that’s when you get into trouble. I thought our guys really pulled together. Everybody that stepped on the floor really helped each other out and pulled together.”
Knight hit two 3’s to get the Hornets off on the right foot to start the game but it was tied 10-10 going into the second quarter. White Hall pushed out to a 23-15 lead in the second quarter but the Hornets rallied, keyed by a pair of unanswered buckets by Sample inside. After Adrian Moore hit a free throw for the Bulldogs, Taylor Masters matched that at the other end, leaving it 24-20 at the break.
An early spurt by White Hall in the second half bumped the lead to 10. Again, however, Sample got the Hornets on track. Cowart followed with a pair of free throws and Floyd flushed a trey to cut the margin to 30-27.
Before the end of the quarter, Cowart added three more free throws and Luke Lucas fed Floyd in the post for a bucket as the Hornets cut it to 34-33 before a free throw by Moore with no time left on the clock made it a 2-point game going into the final period.
Masters and Moore traded free throws then Floyd hit a baseline jumper and the Hornets were finally even again at 36 with 6:17 left.
Dustin Powell put White Hall back ahead but Sample scored and was fouled, tying it up. Though he missed the resulting free throw, Floyd skied for the rebound and put it back in to give the Hornets the lead, 40-38.
After Powell missed, Nordman scored inside off a nice feed from Cowart and, with 5:02 to play, Bryant had its largest lead.
White Hall made one more push, a 7-2 run capped by a go-ahead 3-pointer by Jordan Quarles with 3:16 to go. But Knight connected on an answering trey and the Hornets were ahead to stay. The Bulldogs turned the ball over and Floyd was fouled driving the baseline off a kickout from Sample. His two free throws made it 49-45 with 2:11 to go.
It was 50-46 going before Nathan Buffkin hit the offensive glass for a basket and, after a Bryant shot was blocked, Moore hit a free throw. He had a chance to tie it but missed the second shot. Knight was fouled with :47.6 to go and converted once to extend the margin to 51-49.
Bryant forced a White Hall turnover leading to Nordman’s clutch trip to the line.