By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
Both the Bryant Hornets and the Russellville Cyclones were playing the kind of hard-nosed,[more] hustling, physical, mostly full-court defense that didn’t allow the other one to really run much in the way of offensive sets. There just wasn’t much flow.
So, with his team leading just 27-23 — and that, because of C.J. Rainey’s 3 after Russellville cut Bryant’s lead to 1 — Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson took a timeout with 3:11 left in the third quarter and instructed his team to go into its spread offense.
Already in the bonus at that point, the Hornets made Russellville chase and foul the rest of the game. From that point to the end of the game, Bryant scored just four field goals but converted 18 of 22 free throws on the way to extracting a well-earned 53-43 win.
“They were running a lot of traps on our wings,” Abrahamson explained. “I went to our delay game so we could, number one, have the ball in the right people’s hands and, number two, so we had something organized to go against what they were doing.
“It worked enough to win the game but it still wasn’t very good by our standards,” he added. “We turned it over too much. We looked a little careless at times when we needed to toughen up a little bit there.”
The “right people’s hands” were primarily those of K.J. Hill and C.J. Rainey. Hill, who led all scorers with 23 points, converted 11 of 13 free throws (10 of 11 in the second half). Rainey finished with 17 points including 10 of 12 at the line.
Meanwhile, Russellville, which shot a lot of jumpers, was just 5 of 8 from the charity stripe in the entire ballgame. Cody Underhill led the Cyclones with 14 points. Dakota Young and Andy Campbell finished with 12 each.
“That was the ugliest game I’ve ever been a part of,” stated Abrahamson. “It just seemed like there were clock stoppages every few seconds. Offensively, we just couldn’t get anything going. We made a lot of free throws.
“We knew they were going to be tough and physical,” the coach said, “and they were going to have us scouted. And that they were going to know everything we do; and same thing for us on them. We knew everything they were going to do.
“I just give them the credit,” he concluded. “But I never could see a sense of urgency in my team to be aggressive on offense and to have a certain confidence that they could withstand whatever Russellville did against us. But we give them credit because they did play tough and they took us out of that.”
The Cyclones had Bryant on its heels initially, building a 7-2 lead that forced Abrahamson to call a timeout less than halfway through the first quarter. The Hornets responded by pulling into a tie at 9-9 by the end of the period. Rainey’s steal and layup made it 9-7 then, off a lob in from under the basket, Hill hit a short jumper to tie it.
Bryant had its first lead when Rainey hit a pair of free throws to start the scoring in the second quarter. Andy Campbell, however, scored back-to-back hoops to push the Cylcones back out in front 13-11. But a three-point play by Luke Rayburn got Bryant back on top and the Hornets would not trail again.
Dre Johnson hit a free throw to tie it at 14 but a steal and follow shot by Cambron had Bryant on top going into the final minute. The Hornets forced a turnover then worked the clock down to nearly nothing when Hill drove the right side of the lane and scored to give his team an 18-14 halftime advantage.
A stickback by Rainey opened the third quarter, pushing the lead 6, but Russellville wouldn’t go away. Underhill drove for a pair of baskets and, after Hill converted twice at the line, a three-point play by Dakota Young pulled the Cyclones within a point, 22-21.
Hill and Underhill traded baskets before Rainey drained his team’s lone 3 of the game. Both teams called a timeout in the next minute of play. After Bryant’s break, however, Rainey drove into the lane and dished to Brian Reed for a basket as he was fouled. Reed converted the free throw to push the lead to 30-23.
The Cyclones rallied behind Underhill, who scored 11 of his points in the third quarter. Johnson’s layup at the 1:12 mark trimmed the margin to 2. Abrahamson calmed his team with a timeout and, when play resumed, Greyson Giles drained a short jumper. Rainey came up with a steal and was fouled. His free throws with :10.4 showing made it 36-30 going into the final period.
A three-point play by Hill and free throws by the sophomore guard as well as Tyler Simmons, who got to the line after making a steal, increased the margin to 42-30 with 5:41 left.
Free throws by Hill and Rainey maintained the lead. Russellville, behind 3-pointers from Young, Underhill and Campbell trimmed the lead to 51-43 going into the final 30 seconds but a layup by Cambron set the final score with :18 left.
The Hornets, now 8-1, head to Cabot this Friday.
HORNETS 53, CYCLONES 43
Score by quarters
Russellville 9 5 16 13 — 43
BRYANT 9 9 18 17 — 53
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Scott 1-5 0-2 1-0 1 5 2
Underhill 5-8 3-3 3-1 4 3 14
Jones 0-5 0-0 1-0 1 4 0
Young 5-14 1-1 0-1 1 4 12
Campbell 5-14 0-0 3-6 9 4 12
Curtis 0-3 0-0 0- 0 1 0
Johnson 1-1 1-2 1-1 2 1 3
Delgado 0-0 0-0 0-3 3 1 0
Allen 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Temple-Law 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Team 2-3 5
Totals 17-50 5-8 11-16 27 24 43
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Rainey 3-5 10-12 1-4 5 3 17
Hill 6-10 11-13 2-4 6 0 23
Simmons 0-2 1-4 0-3 3 0 1
Giles 1-7 0-0 0-4 4 2 2
Cambron 2-4 0-0 1-1 2 3 4
Davis 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 1 0
Reed 1-2 1-1 1-1 2 0 3
Rayburn 1-4 1-1 1-2 3 2 3
Team 2-5 7
Totals 14-34 24-31 8-25 33 11 53
Three-point field goals: Russellville 4-19 (Underhill 3-3, Campbell 2-7, Young 1-5, Underhill 1-3, Curtis 0-1), Bryant 1-5 (C.J. Rainey 1-1, Simmons 0-2, Giles 0-2). Turnovers: Russellville 14, Bryant 11.