Improved execution keys win vs. Ark. Baptist
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
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — After a rousing win over Sylvan Hills in their second game at the CAC/OrthoArkansas Invitational Tournament, the last place the Bryant Hornets figured they’d be was staring up at an 8-2 deficit in the early moments of their third tourney game against the Arkansas Baptist Eagles.
But that’s where they were when the two teams tangled on Saturday, Dec. 7.
The Bryant coaching staff had expressed concern about the game. Head coach Mark Smith stressed that his team would have to execute much better than it had previously this season or the disciplined Eagles might carve out a victory.
So, when the score got to 8-2, Smith called a timeout.
“We changed defenses,” he reported. “We started out playing a zone and we weren’t rotating right, we were leaving shooters open and when those guys are open they can shoot it. So, we just scrapped that and went man.
“And really, we’ve been playing man pretty decent,” he added. “The guys are helping each other out and that’s what it takes, a total team effort on both ends of the floor. On offense, we slowed down, ran our plays and got good shots. We had a lot of good looks that we missed but still we were getting the ball to the areas where we want to score.”
And, in what Smith later called the team’s best performance of the season, the Hornets rolled after that, putting away a 52-35 win that was comfortable enough at the end for reserves to finish out, getting in for the first time this season with victory in hand.
A couple of quick baskets by Benny Elder, a steal by B.J. Wood that led to a layup for Geoff Tucker, and a steal by Jaston Carter that produced a trip to the line and a free throw, brought the Hornets back even at 10 with the Eagles.
Arkansas Baptist led 17-16 at the end of the quarter and 20-17 with three minutes left in the half. But Tucker and Wood worked a nice pick and roll for a Bryant basket that ended a long drought. After an Eagles miss, Kyle Lynch took a feed from Jaston Carter for a layup and a 21-20 lead.
Carter, the Hornets’ leading scorer only managed 9 points in the game but he still played a big roll in the win, setting up his teammates and picking up a number of assists.
Arkansas Baptist never led again. Bryant held a 23-21 edge at the half. The Eagles tied it at 23 with the first basket of the third quarter but, when Nick Dorsey hit a pair of free throws with 45 seconds into the period, the Hornets were ahead to stay.
“I liked that everyone got involved,” Smith said. “We weren’t just standing around as much as we have been kind of waiting for one person to get us going. I think everybody got involved and played hard. We’ve been playing hard, it’s just that we haven’t been playing smart. Tonight, I thought, we played a lot smarter too. We ran an offense a little bit more under control and constructed, the way that we want to run it.”
The Hornets put a run together and soon had a double digit advantage. It started with a layup by Dorsey off a nice feed from Drew Devasher. Wood made a steal that led to a three-point play and a 30-23 lead.
The Eagles’ Ryan Morrow interrupted but Wood fed Dorsey for a press-busting layup. After a pair of free throws by AB’s Zach McCrotty, Carter drove for a layup, made a steal and fed Keith Richardson for an easy deuce. Wood trumped the run with a 3 to make it 39-27.
Wood would add another trey on his way to a game-high 12 points. A post-up move by Kyle Lynch made it 44-29.
“It was a really good job,” Smith said. “B.J. stepped up and played big, probably the best game that he’s played. Drew’s playing steady, Geoff played a good game. Benny did a good job getting the ball inside and scoring and Jaston did a good job. He didn’t put up great numbers but he still did a good job. And, you know, that’s the thing that’s going to have to work out, we’re going to have to play and compete when he’s not putting up big numbers. And that’s what we did today. We still missed a lot of easy shots, I felt, but hopefully as time goes on we’ll get better at that too.”
The Hornets’ largest lead came when Wood made a steal and another three-point play with 4:10 left in the game to make it an 18-point margin.