JACKSONVILLE — Behind 29 points and 10 rebounds from senior Camren Hunter, the Bryant Hornets overcame an early deficit on the road in their sternest test of the season to date and extracted a well-earned 63-53 win over the Jacksonville Titans on Thursday night.
The Titans came out roaring, leading from the outset and building a lead of as much as 18-9 until Hunter beat the buzzer with a 3 to make it 18-12 going into the second quarter.
Hunter hit another triple to start the second quarter, but the Titans maintained the edge. It was 25-18 with just under five minutes left in the half. That’s when the Hornets put together a run to take the lead for the first time since it was 3-2.
Jalen Montgomery ignited the run with a drive into the lane where he hit a floater. Moments later, Gabe George knocked down a 3-pointer to trim the lead to 25-23.
An offensive-goal-tending call cost the Titans, and, at the other end, Hunter was fouled on a 3-point try. He made two of his three to tie the game. George canned another trey then Hunter scored inside, and Bryant had a 30-25 lead with 1:19 left in the half.
Jacksonville’s K.J. McGhee ended his team’s dry spell and the Titans trailed just 31-29 at the break.
“We haven’t really been down,” noted Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “The Pine Bluff game, we were down but we didn’t have all these guys. And it wasn’t quite the same way to get down. It was more a methodical get down.
“This was like Jacksonville’s been shot out of a cannon,” he continued. “We had to withstand that. We settled for a lot of 3’s early and then, as the game went on, we were able to get them out of their zone more, get them in man, get inside in the lane, get to the free-throw line.”
The win improved the Hornets to 5-0 this season, going into tonight’s game at home against El Dorado.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Abrahamson said. “To beat a good opponent is good for us. Now, the challenge is we can’t celebrate too long. We’ve got to put it away right now and get ready for El Dorado tomorrow. They’ve got a new coach and they’re playing really hard, so it’ll be another test.”
Will Diggins came off the bench to score 10 points and grab seven boards. For Jacksonville, point guard Christian Moore had 18 and R.J. Maxwell had 9 points and 12 rebounds.
The Hornets were outrebounded 49-35 but forced 17 turnovers.
“Our rebounding wasn’t great but to match that physicality — we showed a lot of toughness, for sure, but there’s basketball stuff in there too like getting in the lane, getting to the free-throw line, making enough, taking some charges, making (Moore’s) night tough. He got into foul trouble so that helped us.”
Moore hit a 3 to start the second half. Aiden Adams drove for a layup to respond but a three-point play by Dee Cobbs had Jacksonville back on top, 35-33.
Adams scored on an offensive rebound then Maxwell hit a jumper in the lane. But Hunter tied it at 37 by hitting the offensive glass. He followed with a steal and layup that put the Hornets ahead to stay.
Landyn Newburn blocked a shot by Maxwell who then traded free throws with Cory Nichols. traded free throws. Kade Ruffner followed a teammate’s miss to make it 42-38. Newburn blocked another shot and wound up at the free throw line where he added a point, making it a 5-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
With free throws by McGhee and a 12-foot jumper by Jaden Cope, the margin got down to 47-45.
But Nichols hit two free throws then Austin Schroeder set up and took a charge. Ruffner cashed it in with a stickback that pushed the margin to 51-45.
Moore canned a jumper to make it a 4-point game then the Titans jumped into a press that the Hornets eviscerated. Diggins got behind the defense for a layup off a feed from Adams. Hunter then grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast to push the margin to 55-47.
After a Jacksonville took a timeout with 2:58 left in the game.
The Titans came back to get within 7 only to have the Hornets burn their press as Ruffner fed Diggins inside for a layup, which seemed to turn back the momentum to Bryant.
“We scheduled tough this year and we did it for a reason,” stated Abrahamson. “Jacksonville played so well. They were prepared for us. They were ready to play.
“For them to come out and “punch us in the mouth” — we got to find out a little bit more about our team,” he said. “That was good. That’s what I told our guys. This is good. We haven’t seen that and now that we’ve seen it, we know what we’re going to do about it.
“I’m proud of the guys — and that’s probably an understatement because Jacksonville’s so physical,” the coach said. “They run good offense. We have the utmost respect for (Moore). He is such a good guard. So skilled. Such a dynamic scorer. And our guys did a pretty good job on him. He’s a tough assignment. And, of course, they’ve got some big and physical guys too.
“To take that punch in the mouth and then to come back, led by Cam — he got his teeth knocked out again,” Abrahamson said. “He just got them fixed this morning and he got them knocked out again like in the first two minutes of the game. For him to keep coming.
“Gabe shot the ball well, comes off the bench and makes a couple of 3’s,” the coach added. “The second half, Jalen set the tone, taking a charge. Then Austin comes in and takes a charge. Landon comes in and gets a couple of blocks and gets to the free-throw line.
“We had some guys step up at the free-throw line, Cory and Will. Cam got there too but for Cory and Will to step up was big because that’s been a problem.”
HORNETS 63, TITANS 53
Score by quarter
BRYANT 12 19 12 20 — 63
Jacksonville 18 11 9 15 — 53
HORNETS (5-0) 63
Ruffner 2-6 0-2 4, Hunter 9-17 7-9 29, Montgomery 1-2 0-0 2, Adams 2-8 0-0 4, Brunson 1-1 0-0 2, Nichols 0-4 5-10 5, Diggins 4-8 2-3 10, George 2-7 0-0 6, Schroeder 0-0 0-0 0, Newburn 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 21-54 (39%) 15-26 (58%) 63.
TITANS (2-4) 53
McGhee 2-8 2-2 7, Moore 8-20 0-0 18, Maxwell 3-15 3-5 9, Stewart 2-5 0-2 4, Brown 2-10 1-2 6, Cope 2-5 0-0 4, Leavy 0-0 0-0 0, Cobbs 2-4 1-1 5, Wiggins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-67 (31%) 7-12 (58%) 53.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-21 (Hunter 4-6, George 2-6, Adams 0-5, Ruffner 0-4), Jacksonville 4-23 (Moore 2-11, McGhee 1-7, Brown 1-3, Maxwell 0-2). Turnovers: Bryant 9, Jacksonville 17. Rebounds:Bryant 10-25 35 (Hunter 3-7 10, Diggins 1-6 7, Ruffner 2-3 5, Brunson 2-2 4, Adams 1-2 3, Nichols 0-2 2, George 0-1 1, team 1-2 3), Jacksonville 21-28 49 (Maxwell 5-7 12, Stewart 4-3 7, Cope 4-3 7, Moore 1-4 5, Brown 2-3 5, Cobbs 2-2 4, McGhee 0-2 2, Leavy 1-1 2, team 2-3 5). Team fouls: Bryant 15, Jacksonville 19.