CONWAY — Obviously, Bryant head coach Mike Abramson had reflected on the Hornets’ loss to the Fayetteville Bulldogs on Friday. He’d been pretty perturbed with his team for its lack of defensive effort in the 64-55 setback.
It was, after all, the Hornets’ ninth game in 18 days and they’re just not as deep as he’d like or he expects them to be later in the season as sophomores gain experience on the floor and in practice.
On Friday, his team was running on fumes. And, on Saturday against the Van Buren Pointers in the conclusion of the weekend Bank of the Ozarks/John Stanton Classic at Buzz Bolding Arena, after a fast start, it looked like the Hornets hit a wall.
The Hornets hit 8 of 11 shots from the field in the first quarter to build a 20-16 lead but, by halftime, the Pointers had pushed out to a 34-25 advantage and, with less than a minute left in the third quarter, that lead had been extended to 13, 47-34.
“I thought we were out of gas,” he acknowledged, “but I guess, I don’t know, somehow we went to the gas station, got some fuel. It’s amazing what a few turnovers and easy baskets can do for a young team.”
From that point on, the Hornets outscored the Pointers 25-6 to pull out a 59-53 victory.
“I’m proud of them,” Abrahamson declared. “This is our 10th game in 19 days. We’ve got a young team. We don’t make excuses but those are facts. We’re banged up. Our freshman point guard has got a hurt hip. Our sophomore, (Khalen) Robinson, has a sprained right hand. (Junior Rodney) Lambert has a broken nose. And (seniors Deron) Canada and (Sam) Chumley are just keeping us together. And they’ve played so many minutes just to keep us together.
“Yesterday, we saw the effects of that and a lot of today,” he acknowledged. “Again, the resilience and the character — to really play terrible yesterday defensively. And give Fayetteville credit. They played really well. But that was our worst day of the school year not just the season. Then things weren’t going well today and we struggled to adjust. Then we finally got it going.
“We tell them, it’s a long game,” the coach related. “Things change and things happen. The game’s not over at halftime. To our kids’ credit, they buy into that and they didn’t quit. I’m really proud of them.”
The Hornets, who presented a soft zone press the first half, intensified the defense to start the third quarter and, though the turnovers doubled from 4 in the first half to 8, it had other repercussions.
“I think it just took a while to get into Van Buren’s legs a little bit,” Abrahamson noted. “They handled it really better in the third quarter then, in the fourth quarter, we were able to get to them. It was kind of a cumulative effect there.”
Robinson finished with a game-high 24 points including 20 in the second half, 13 in the fourth quarter. Lambert rebounded from a tough day to score 16 points and Chumley added 11. Canada 6.
“It was a team effort, especially defensively,” Abrahamson asserted. “Offensively, everybody was happy to do their part. Obviously, we put the ball in Khalen’s hands since (Hunter) couldn’t go anymore.
“Khalen is really skilled, a really good player but, I tell you, he’s coachable,” he added. “And he’s a team guy, through and through. The guy just wants to compete and win and wants to know, ‘What do I have to do?’ I admire that about him. Sometimes somebody that good is not like that. He is.”
But it was the effort that the Hornets mustered that really impressed their coach.
“It takes a lot of effort and if it doesn’t go well, it just seems to get away from you,” he noted, again in reference to Friday’s game. “That’s our third comeback victory this season and, on one hand, that’s a little frustrating because you’ve got to come back but — this team is figuring it out and I’m figuring them out. It’s just not as easy as it appears. It requires a lot of effort that we, right now, probably can’t do for a full game.”
Both teams shot the ball well. The Hornets slumped in the second and third quarters but, after their hot start, they connected on 7-of-9 in the fourth quarter.
Van Buren was scorching the nets too. They shot 57 percent from the field for the game (20 of 35) but that included hitting just two attempts in seven shots in the fourth.
Lambert showed early that Saturday was a different day for him as he scored the Hornets’ first 9 points as they went up 9-3. After Van Buren’s Jordan West hit his second triple, Canada tossed in a bomb to make it 12-6.
The two teams combined to take 43 shots from beyond the arc. Each sank nine. The Pointers’ Presley Kindrix was 5 of 13 and finished with 21 points but converted just one of his last six trey tries. Bradley Gilmore added 12 points off the bench. West, after that initial 6 points, got into foul trouble and finished with just 7 for the game.
Kindrix’ first two 3’s helped Van Buren surge into the lead 14-12 in the first quarter but, over the final three minutes of the period, the Hornets went on an 8-2 burst, bookended by baskets from Robinson. Catrell Wallace scored off a nice dish from Canada and Chumley grabbed an offensive rebound and scored.
Three-pointers by Gavin Ball and Kindrix helped the Pointers grab the advantage with an 8-0 start to the second quarter. Chumley hit a 3 and another stickback to help the Hornets stay close but another 8-09 burst by the Pointers produced the 34-25 halftime lead.
The advantage ballooned to 11 in the third quarter. Robinson then ended a drought with a 3 with Lambert following up a bucket by Zane West with a 15-footer. Robinson’s layup off a Pointers’ turnover cut the margin to 41-34.
Van Buren coach Austin Trembley called a timeout to stop the Hornets’ mini-rally and his team responded with a 6-0 run that produced their largest lead with :35 left in the period.
Canada ended Bryant’s drought with a 3 to end the quarter, cutting the margin to 10.
After a layup by Ball to start the fourth, the Hornets began to surge on back-to-back triples by Robinson and Lambert. Then Robinson added a third in a row, cutting the margin to 49-46. Chumley made a steal but Canada’s 3-point try rimmed out.
A free throw by Jordan West interrupted the run but when Chumley scored inside at the other end, it was back to a 2-point game.
Trembley had to take another timeout to avoid a timeout as the Hornets trapped Zane West. When play resumed, the Pointers turned it over anyway and Robinson cashed in from 15 feet to tie the game. Moments later, he fed Lambert for a bucket that put Bryant ahead to stay.
Ball had a one-and-one with a chance to tie it back up with 2:04 left but missed the front end. At the other end, Robinson scored and was fouled. Though he missed the free throw, it was a two-possession game. Another Van Buren turnover and the Hornets spread the floor and shot free throws the rest of the way. Though they missed a few and Kindrix hit one last 3 to cut the margin to 57-53 with :12.9 showing, Chumley knocked down two at the line with :11.7 left to seal it.
The Hornets get some time off now for Christmas. They’ll continue to practice but won’t play again until Thursday, Dec. 28, when they begin play in the annual Coca-Cola Classic at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. They’ll take on Jacksonville at 4:10 p.m.
HORNETS 59, POINTERS 53
Score by quarters
BRYANT 20 5 12 22 — 59
Van Buren 16 18 13 6 — 53
HORNETS (7-3) 59
Hunter 0-3 0-0 0, Robinson 8-14 5-7 24, Chumley 4-5 2-2 11, Lambert 6-8 1-2 16, Canada 2-10 0-0 6, Merriweather 0-1 0-0 0, Wallace 1-1 0-0 2, Hilkert 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-42 (50%) 8-11 (73%) 59.
POINTERS (6-3) 53
Burnett 1-2 0-0 2, J.West 2-4 1-2 7, Ball 2-3 0-1 5, Stewart 1-2 0-0 2, Kindrix 7-16 2-2 21, Gilmore 6-6 0-1 12, Z.West 1-2 1-2 4. Totals 20-35 (57%) 4-8 (50%) 53.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 9-23 (Robinson 3-4, Lambert 3-4, Canada 2-9, Chumley 1-2, Hunter 0-3, Merriweather 0-1), Van Buren 9-20 (Kindrix 5-13, J.West 2-3, Ball 1-2, Z. West 1-2). Turnovers: Bryant 10, Van Buren 15. Rebounds: Bryant 5-14 19 (Robinson 2-3 5, Lambert 0-3 3, Wallace 0-3 3, Canada 1-2 3, Hunter 0-2 2, Chumley 2-0 2, Merriweather 0-1 1), Van Buren 0-18 18 (Ball 0-6 6, Burnett 0-4, Kindrix 0-2 2, Gilmore 0-2 2, Stewart 0-1 1, Z.West 0-1 1, team 0-2 2). Team fouls: Bryant 8, Van Buren 17.