By Rob Patrick
PERRYVILLE — Coming off a year in which a senior-laden team competed but struggled to win, with a pair of new coaches and lot of anticipation, probably the most important thing the Bryant Hornets basketball team could do in their pre-season scrimmage at Perryville on Thursday night was winning. Not only to get a taste of success but to build some confidence as they head back to the practice floor to prepar for their season-opening game against Beebe in the Searcy Tournament on Monday, Nov. 30.
And the Hornets took control of a tight game with a good second half to get that victory, 48-36, over the Mustangs. Perryville was making its debut under new head coach Terry Smith, a former graduate assistant under new Bryant head coach Ron Marvel when he was in the midst of his Hall of Fame coaching career at UCA.[more]
“It was ugly,” commented Marvel. “I’d rather win ugly than to lose pretty though. It’s always nice to win.”
The Hornets led just 6-5 after a quarter and 15-13 at the half, converting just 5 of 16 shots from the field. But they forced 17 turnovers and, in the second half, made more of those Mustang miscues.
“That’s kind of what you expect in a game like this,” Marvel said. “Our players were real excited and we made a lot of mistakes early. Our defense was very slack and we missed a ton of shots. I mean, we had a bunch of good shots right under the goal and we couldn’t get them down.
“But the second half, the field goal percentage came up, we shot the ball better and we defended a little better,” he continued. “I was pleased with the second half. They got over being so excited about the game, they played much better.”
The Hornets put three players in double figures and had two others that came close. Guard Reid Prescott had 11 points, forwards Kyle Hampton and Dontay Renuard 10 each. Point-guard K-Ron Lairy added 9 and sophomore forward L.J. McLaughlin 8.
In addition, Renuard collected 11 rebounds and McLaughlin seven.
Perryville, unable to get much done inside against the Hornets, wound up bombing 20 3-pointers, making nine. Kyle Loomis hit five on his way to a game-high 18 points. Hunter Hickey hit four to help him chalk up 14 points.
A pair of Loomis’ 3’s had the Mustangs up 11-9 midway through the second quarter. Neither team could gain an advantage after that for several trips up the floor. McLaughlin made a steal only to have the Hornets turn it back over on a charge call. But McLaughlin swiped another pass and was fouled. His two free throws tied it.
A driving jumper by Hickey put Perryville back on top 13-11 but when Prescott fed Hampton for a basket to tie it and Lairy followed with a pair of free throws, it proved to be the Mustangs’ last lead.
To start the second half, McLaughlin scored off the offensive glass only to have Loomis counter with a trey, tying it at 16. But when Hampton drove for a bucket, Lairy made a steal that led to a hoop by Renuard and Prescott hit a layup, the Hornets were suddenly ahead 23-16.
Bryant’s lead was 35-27 going into the fourth quarter and when Loomis and Hickey wrapped a pair of 3’s around a follow shot by Lairy, the Mustangs were within 37-33 with 6:31 to go.
But Hampton posted up for a bucket and, after a missed triple by Hickey, Renuard buried a long-range jumper to make it 42-33. Another basket inside by Hampton produced a double-digit lead for the Hornets with 5:18 left to play.
Perryville cut it to 9 in the late going but free throws by Prescott, Renuard and Lairy after that produced the final margin.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Marvell mentioned. “We’ve got a lot of things to do. I’ve tried to throw too much at them too fast. I realize that tonight. We’re just trying to do too many things too fast. As coaches, we’ve got to simplify and get back to basics again. And that’s going to help us.”