Hornets falter down the stretch, on defense, in loss to Fayetteville

CONWAY — Against the Benton Panthers on Tuesday, the Bryant Hornets spotted their rival a 16-4 lead but they came back and won. Head coach Mike Abrahamson vowed to get that straightened out.

And, on Friday when they played the Fayetteville Bulldogs at the Bank of the Ozarks/John Stanton Classic, they pushed out to a 7-2 lead and held it most of the first half. But, this time, the struggles came late as Fayetteville finished with a 16-6 surge that turned the Hornets 49-48 lead into a 64-55 loss.

Abrahamson was not pleased.

“It was an embarrassing effort defensively,” he said. “We had all kinds of issues today, not even basketball issues.”

Asked what the Hornets needed to do better, the coach asserted, “Block out, contest shots, sprint defensively — it’s all defensively. It was not a good effort.”

Bryant did force 23 turnovers, but the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Hornets 28-23 and shot 58 percent from the floor (24 of 41).

Darius Bowers, who played quarterback on the Fayetteville football team, led the FHS basketball team with 15 points. Jon Conley and Frank Morgan had 11 each and R.J. Johnson 10. But it was a couple of guys off the bench that sparked the Bulldogs. Hank Gibbs, a 6-5 forward scored 8 points and had a game-high eight rebounds while Cody Gray hit a pair of key third-quarter 3’s.

The Bulldogs were without one of their top players, Collin Cooper, who didn’t make the trip due to the untimely death of his older brother, a Fayetteville alum. A moment of silence was held for the elder Cooper before the game. Fayetteville bowed out of their game on Saturday against Little Rock Central in order to return and attend the funeral services.

For the Hornets, Deron Canada hit four 3’s on his way to a game-high 19 points. Sam Chumley had 10, all in the first quarter, Khalen Robinson had 10 with 8 coming at the free-throw line, and Camren Hunter 9.

Bryant led by as much as 9 in the first half. After the initial run that included baskets by Robinson, off a feed from Rodney Lambert, and Chumley, off a dish from Robinson, plus Canada’s first 3, Fayetteville rallied within 12-11.

But the Hornets closed the quarter with an 8-3 run that included a three-point play by Chumley, free throws from Robinson and a buzzer-beating triple by Canada to make it 20-14.

Johnson knocked down a 3 to start the second quarter for Fayetteville but Canada drove for a bucket then added four free throws in consecutive trips to the line and the lead was 9.

The teams traded baskets until the Bulldogs, behind Bowers and Conley, ran off 9 in a row to tie it at the half 33-33.

And when Quinn Schach hit a free throw to start the second half and Bowers drove for a layup, Fayetteville had its first lead of the game.

Canada tied with a triple and it went back and forth for a while. Robinson’s offensive-rebound basket with 2:31 left in the third quarter had the Hornets within 43-42 but Conley hit a jumper and Gray drilled a 3 to increase the margin to 48-42.

Hunter hit a jumper in the lane with a minute left to make it 48-44 going into the final period.

Free throws by Merriweather and Robinson early in the fourth pushed the Hornets into the lead 49-48 but when Bowers scored at the 6:42 mark, the Bulldogs had pulled ahead again.

The Hornets didn’t score again until Hunter hit a 3 with 3:34 left, which tied it at 52.

Morgan’s layup untied it then the Hornets had a disastrous trip to the line. Lane violations cost them both shots. They forced a turnover to get another chance to tie it back up but, during a quarter in which they were 1 of 11 from the field, the shot didn’t go.

Morgan hit a 3 and the Hornets never caught back up.

Bryant, now 6-3, will try to bounce back on Saturday afternoon with a 12:30 game against former conference rival Van Buren to wrap up the Classic and their pre-Christmas schedule.


Score by quarters

Fayetteville     14        19        15        16 — 64

BRYANT          20        13        11        11 — 55

BULLDOGS (6-4) 64

Conley 4-8 2-4 11, Schach 0-1 1-2 1, Bowers 6-7 3-5            15, Morgan 4-7 2-3 11, Johnson 4-9 0-0 10, Witte 0-0 2-2 2, Bowman 0-1 0-0 0, Gray 2-3 0-0 6, Gibbs 4-5 0-0 8, Munyambu 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-41 (59%) 10-16 (63%) 64.

HORNETS (6-3) 55

Hunter 4-11 0-0 9, Robinson 1-6 8-9 10, Chumley 4-9 1-1 10, Lambert 1-2 0-0 2, Canada 5-12 5-6 19, Wallace 1-2 0-0 2, Merriweather 1-2 1-4 3. Totals 17-44 (39%) 15-20 (75%) 55.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-16 (Canada 4-7, Chumley 1-4, Hunter 1-3, Robinson 0-1, Merriweather 0-1), Fayetteville 6-13 (Johnson 2-6, Gray 2-2, Conley 1-2, Morgan 1-2, Gibbs 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 17, Fayetteville 23. Rebounds: Bryant 10-13 23 (Canada 2-4 6, Chumley 2-3 5, Robinson 2-2 4, Wallace 2-1 3, Merriweather 2-0 2, team 0-3 3), Fayetteville 8-20 28 (Gibbs 1-7 8, Conley 0-6 6, Bowers 2-4 6, Johnson 1-2 3, Morgan 0-1 1, Witte 1-0 1, team 3-0 3). Team fouls: Bryant 16, Fayetteville 17. Fouled out: Fayetteville, Schach.

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