No killer drought in Hornets’ first league win
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
The Bryant Hornets had experienced fast starts before. The latest example was a 9-0 start at Little Rock Catholic in their 7A-Central Conference opener on Jan. 5. And it didn’t last. In fact, the Rockets came back to had the Hornets a bitterly disappointing loss, made even more so by that fast start.
But because of that, when the Hornets put together a 10-0 run in the first quarter against the Conway Wampus Cats to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 12-4 lead forcing a Conway timeout with 2:28 left in the first quarter, the talk in the Bryant huddle was of keeping the intensity. No letdown this time.
When play resumed, Conway Armand Martin missed a shot but the Hornets turned the ball over. This time, Martin scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw but, the Hornets committed another turnover.
With the momentum teetering, Bryant stepped up on defense. Tim Floyd and Taylor Masters combined to force a turnover that led to a 3-pointer by Brandon Cowart. At the other end, Conway’s Austin Mitchell misfired but Jason Garner was there for the offensive rebound only to have Masters block his shot. Bryant got the ball and headed the other way. Floyd banked in a jumper and the Hornets had a 17-6 lead going into the second quarter.
The surge continued with Jeremy Nordman and Masters scoring to make it a 9-0 push and a 21-6 lead before Conway scored again. And the Hornets were on their way to their first conference victory, 54-40, on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Nordman, a senior, wound up having a first half that players dream about. A streaky shooter, Nordman caught fire and rolled up 20 points in the first half, not only knocking down 3’s — he had four of them — but taking it to the rim. He also began to make shots on a move he’d been using but with mixed results. He pump-faked a 3 to draw the defense, took a dribble or two inside the arc and launched a jumper. Nordman finished with 22 points.
“It was really in the flow of the offense,” noted Hornets head coach Mark Smith. “It wasn’t anything designed specifically for him. He hit a couple of shots that, lately, have been rimming out. Tonight, he hit them. He was on tonight and when he gets on, that really frees a lot of other people up and takes a lot of the pressure off every possession being so big.
“It was a big win,” added the coach. “We’ve been playing so close and not coming out on top, this really helps our confidence. This lets the guys know that hard work pays off. It really does. You tell them that and you lose close games and you keep losing close games and they start wondering if you’re telling them the truth.
“We shot the ball well and that was the key,” he continued. “It enabled us to do some things offensively where we were able to just be real methodical after that and work clock, probably made Conway push the panic button a little bit. Again, it was just because we were hitting shots. We knew that we were going to have to play hard, the effort was going to have to be there to win this game. Conway does such a good job and, in the past, they’ve always been a very tough team to beat. And it’ll be that way when we play them again. It’ll be hard. But I was really proud of the guys. I thought we executed pretty well tonight.”
The Hornets eventually led by 16 in the first half. It came at 25-9 after a pair of baskets by Nordman midway through the second quarter. Conway whittled it back to 12 but a pair of 3’s by Nordman in the final 1:06 wrapped around a pair of free throws by Conway’s Terry Tidwell, made it 31-15 at the break.
Tidwell, a talented sophomore post, managed to lead his team with 11 points but Smith lauded the defensive work of his inside players, Kevin Butzlaff, Hunter Sample and Floyd for making it difficult for Conway to get the ball to him despite the fact that Tidwell was considerably taller than any of them.
“I thought Kevin played well,” Smith said. “He took some shots. Hunter did a good job too. And I thought Brandon had a good game.”
Cowart, the Hornets junior point guard, finished with 9 points.
Tidwell hit a free throw to start the scoring in the second half but the Hornets answered with a 9-2 stretch. Cowart and Butzlaff worked a pick-and-roll for a bucket for the latter. At the other end, Butzlaff was called for a foul but he got right back on Tidwell and took a charge, paying for it with a forearm to the sternum. Chad Knight then fed Cowart for a reverse layup and, moments later, knocked down a 15-foot jumper to make it 37-16. Tidwell scored inside but Luke Lucas answered with a 3-pointer that made it 40-18 with 3:48 left in the third quarter.
Bryant led 45-27 going into the fourth quarter and eventually pushed the lead to 23, 52-29, with a driving jumper by Zach Lewis finishing off a 10-2 run just after Smith began to work in his reserves.