Hornets surge past Hot Springs behind Cozart’s 27
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
HOT SPRINGS — The game of basketball lends itself to rapid and wild swings in emotion, from minute to minute and game to game. One day you’re on top of the world and the next you’re holding it up.
It flat-out defies any effort for consistency though that’s[more] what every team strives for.
On Tuesday, Dec. 28, in the opening game of the Summit Bank Spa City Shootout, the Bryant Hornets had a game get away from them against the Texas High Tigers who made a late run to eke out a 40-36 win. It was a tough loss for the Hornets altogether and a rough day for Bryant’s junior guard Brantley Cozart, in particular.
Cozart went 1 for 12 from the field, didn’t get to the free-throw line and wound up with just 2 points.
But on Wednesday, the Hornets turned the tables on the Hot Springs Trojans. They erased a 10-point second-half deficit to win 55-51 and Cozart was a huge factor with a career- high 27 points included 23 in the second half. He converted 9 of 10 free throws down the stretch to extend a narrow lead then preserve it.
Two free throws by senior Houston Garner with :00.8 showing put the game out of reach after the Trojans had cut the lead to 2.
The Hornets are set to play in the consolation final of the tournament on Thursday at 2:30 p.m., against the Central Arkansas Christian Mustangs, who qualified for the game with a win over the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams on Wednesday.
Jordan Griffin added 16 points for the Hornets including a 3 that put them in the lead with 2:09 left to play.
Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson had decried his team’s timidity in the second half against Texas High. In a walk-through on Wednesday, he urged the team — and Cozart, in particular — to play with more confidence, assuring them that he believed in them.
He apparently also noticed his team wearing down a little in the late going. So, in the game against Hot Springs, he dipped deep into his bench early and often. Eleven Hornets got into the game through the first three quarters with Eric Moore, Leon Neale, Aaron Bell, Zach Cambron, Logan Trudell and Marcus Wilson coming off the bench.
“It’s something that I want to do but I lose confidence, really, in myself to put some of those guys in,” he explained. “I do believe in those guys. Some of them are really young and inexperienced, even more than the people that are playing. There’s been so many close games this year that I just know that every possession counts so I sometimes just hesitate to do it. I just made the decision today that I was going to put them in early to make sure that I got them in. I was hoping it’d pay off in the end.”
That it did.
“We played well in stretches yesterday and we played well in stretches today,” he added. “Yesterday we lose by 4, today we win by 4 and there’s not a lot of difference except that final score on the scoreboard.
“And there’s a big difference in how you feel when it’s over,” the coach continued. “I love today’s game because we did come from behind and we did stick with our plan. We continued to believe in each other. The shooters kept shooting and the rebounders kept rebounding and our bench stayed into it. So, it means a lot to show them it’s never over. Yesterday showed that in a way that you wish you didn’t have to go through and today showed us it’s never over with us coming back. It means a lot, more than maybe leading the entire game.”
In a game of surges, Hot Springs had built the only double-digit lead of the game midway through the third quarter. It was still an 8-point game a minute into the fourth.
Garner started the Hornets’ initial surge with a free throw with 6:59 left. Moments later, Cozart got to the line and converted both ends of a bonus opportunity. Hot Springs’ Zach Knapp missed on a long 3 and Cozart trimmed the margin to 2 with a long-range bomb.
The Trojans’ Chris Hughes hit a free throw but when Griffin hit a driving jumper, it was 41-40 Hot Springs with 5:13 to play.
Hot Springs appeared to have withstood the rally when DeAndre Hood and Jonathan Robbins hit consecutive shots inside and the Hornets followed with a turnover.
But Cozart made a steal that led to another trip to the line where he, again, knocked down both ends of the one-and-one.
Pressing now, the Hornets got the Trojans to speed up and the result was another turnover that would lead to another triple by Cozart that, this time, tied the game at 45 with 3:12 left.
Bryant got a pair of chances to take the lead at that point and when turnovers resulted in both instances, it felt like the momentum was swinging Hot Springs’ way again. The second miscue was cashed in by Hughes, who finished with 15 points.
But that’s when Griffin drained a 3 from the right corner giving Bryant its first lead of the game.
At the other end, Quinton Motto swatted away a shot by Hood. It was the fourth block of the game for the Hornets’ big man who also had 10 rebounds and 4 points.
A turnover, however, gave the Trojans another chance to regain the advantage. But Motto forced consecutive shots by Hughes and Robbins to be altered inside as the Hornets maintained the advantage.
Robbins, a 6-1, 230-pounder who was tough inside but also helped handle against the press, led Hot Springs with 17 points and seven boards.
With 1:20 to go, Cozart was again sent to the line and, again, he drilled both ends of the final one-and-one to extend the leaed to 3. And, after Hughes missed on a long 3, the Trojans had to foul Cozart once more. With :28.6 showing, he extended the lead to 52-47.
Hot Springs stayed alive when, with :16.3 left, Ryan Morrow, the smallest player on the court, grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled. He popped in both free throws to get his team within 3, a one-possession game.
The ball was inbounded to Cozart and he was fouled again with :13.2 showing. His only miss of the quarter gave Hot Springs brief hope but his second shot fell and it was a two-possession game.
Knapp missed a long 3 and Motto collected his 10th rebound but he was roughed up as he brought the ball down and went to the deck with an apparent ankle sprain. Morrow snapped up the loose ball, scored and was fouled with :02.4 on the clock.
His team’s lead cut to 2, Abrahamson called timeout to remind his players that Hot Springs needed to have Morrow miss the free throw and for the Trojans to get the rebound and score to tie the game. Blocking out was imperative, even more so with the 6-7 Motto out of the game.
Morrow indeed missed the free throw but Garner went up strong for the rebound and was fouled, leading to his clinching free throws.
Early, the game was tied at 5, 7 and 9 before Hot Springs inched ahead. It was 16-11 before Motto beat the buzzer with a 10-foot jumper to trim the margin to 3.
The Hornets managed just 5 points in the second quarter — a basket by Cozart and free throws by Griffin and Trudell — but the Trojans could only manage a 25-18 lead at the half.
The Hornets opened the third quarter with new life. They forced a turnover right away and Cozart got a layup on an inbounds play. Motto blocked a shot by Robbins and Cozart cashed in with the first of his four 3’s.
Another Hot Springs turnover resulted in a Trojans timeout but, when play resumed, Griffin canned a running jumper off a drive to tie the game 25-25.
But Robbins started a Hot Springs’ run with a drive, the first 2 of his 8 points during the 10-0 blitz.
It was 35-25 before Cozart ended Bryant’s drought with another troika. But a three-point play by Hood pushed it to 10 again.
It was 38-30 going into the final seconds of the quarter but Garner scored off a drive up the baseline and, though his free throw was negated by a lane violation, the Hornets were within 38-32 going into the fourth.
Robbins, working a pick-and-roll with Hughes, opened the scoring in the final period to set the stage for Bryant’s comeback.
HORNETS 55, TROJANS 51
Score by quarters
BRYANT 13 5 14 23 — 55
Hot Springs 16 9 13 13 — 51
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Griffin 4-10 6-8 0-1 1 4 16
Cozart 7-12 9-11 1-1 2 4 27
Nossaman 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Garner 1-7 3-4 1-2 3 1 5
Motto 2-4 0-2 3-7 10 2 4
Moore 0-1 0-1 1-1 2 1 0
Neale 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Bell 1-4 0-2 1-2 3 4 2
Cambron 0-0 0-0 0-2 2 0 0
Trudell 0-0 1-3 0-0 0 1 1
Wilson 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 3-1 4
Totals 15-40 19-31 10-18 28 18 55
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Holder 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 5 2
Hood 2-3 1-1 0-0 0 3 5
Robbins 6-11 5-6 4-3 7 4 17
Hughes 4-16 6-11 1-3 4 4 15
Knapp 2-6 0-0 0-6 6 3 6
Johnson 0-0 0-0 0-3 3 0 0
Rodgers 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Morrow 1-1 4-6 2-0 2 2 6
Team 1-3 4
Totals 16-38 16-24 8-18 26 25 51
Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-15 (Cozart 4-5, Griffin 2-6, Garner 0-2, Nossaman 0-1, Motto 0-1), Hot Springs 3-13 (Knapp 2-6, Hughes 1-7). Turnovers: Bryant 18, Hot Springs 18. Technical foul: Hot Springs, Hughes.