Hornets eke out win in tune-up
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
Very little has come easily for the Bryant Hornets basketball team this season but, so far, their luck has been more good than bad.
The latest example came on Friday, Jan. 3, when Pulaski Robinson forward Marcus Stokes missed two shots from under the basket in the closing seconds and the Hornets held on for a 56-54 win in their final tune-up for their first foray into the rugged AAAAA-Central Conference.
With the win, Bryant, now 8-3, takes a streak of four consecutive wins and six in the last seven games into their league opener at home against Little Rock Central (see related story).
Stokes, a vocal performer for the Senators, led his team with 12 points and 11 rebounds but was silenced at the end when he failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity that came about thanks to a Bryant turnover with :18 left to play.
“It’s better to be lucky than good and that’s the way it was for us,” commented Hornets head coach Mark Smith. “We dodged a bullet for sure. I guess, the worst scenario would’ve been overtime but I’m glad we didn’t have to play any more because (Robinson) is hard to stop.
“I’m real proud of the way we played,” he added. “We hustled real well, played hard. Geoff Tucker, Kyle Lynch and Nick Dorsey did a fantastic job for us off the bench. I mean that’s the best that all three of those guys have played all year, especially at one time. And really, the bench is what saved us. It was a really good team effort.”
That trio combined for 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Hornets. It was a layup by Tucker off an eye-popping feed from Dwayne Chumley that proved to be the difference at the end.
The game was tied for the 10th time with 1:16 left in the game. A free throw by Robinson’s Jamel Tyler knotted the game at 52. He missed his second shot and Bryant’s Benny Elder tipped the rebound to Chumley who raced down the floor and found Jaston Carter free inside for a layup with 1:07 to go.
Carter then forced a turnover and, with :44 showing, Tucker made a backcut against the aggressive Senator defense and Chumley whipped a pass to him for a layup and a 56-52 edge.
A running jumper by Dante Adams cut the margin to 2 with :30 left. The Hornets worked the ball against the press until the turnover with :18 left. On that play, Tucker again appeared to have a free drive to the hoop on a backcut. B.J. Wood tried to get the ball to him but, this time, the pass was tipped. Tucker couldn’t haul in the deflection and the ball went out of bounds off of him.
“We didn’t think at times,” Smith said. “We turned the ball over in situations where we should’ve thought a little bit about what we were doing. I think we were kind of in too much of a hurry, trying to make something happen instead of just backing up and slowing down a little bit. We didn’t play real smart in critical situations but we dodged the bullet at the end.”
The Hornets led 52-51 after Stokes scored with 2:35 left to play and promptly turned the ball over. They came back to force a Senator turnover but Carter took a quick 3-pointer and missed. Robinson’s Michael Walter was fouled with 1:57 to go. After a Bryant timeout, though, Walter failed to take advantage, missing twice at the line.
Again, however, the Hornets couldn’t stand the good fortune and they turned it over leading to Tyler’s tying free throw.
Too, the Hornets might’ve had more breathing room at the end had they converted some free throws. For the game, they hit 12-of-24 at the line.
“We’re fixing to start a whole new season, starting conference,” Smith noted. “For teams like us who are not just abundantly talented, especially in the Central conference, we’ve got to make the most of every opportunity. And free throws — we’ve got to become a better free throw shooting team and we’ve got to get ourselves on the free throw line more often, to give us the chance to shoot free throws. That’s something we’ve been stressing and, I guess we’re just going to have to continue to work on in practice, the free throw shooting. That’s the only way that I think we can compete against the teams we’re going to have to compete with is to play smart and make free throws.”
The Hornets opened the game with a 7-2 run that included a three-point play by Elder off a nice assist from Drew Devasher, a layup by Chumley off another Devasher feed then a steal and dunk by Carter.
After that the game was tied at 7, 9, 11 and 13 before the period was over. Carter, after tying it at 13 with a 12-foot jay, hit a free throw with :28.4 on the clock to snap the deadlock. He then made a steal that eventually led to a buzzer-beating layup by Tucker off a nifty inbounds pass from Devasher. Bryant led 16-13 going into the second quarter.
Tyler cut the margin to 1 but Carter laced a pass to Elder for a layup, Devasher fed Tucker again then scored himself as the lead ballooned to 22-15, the largest of the game.
But Robinson rallied and when Larry Williams hit a driving jumper with :23 left in the half the game was tied once again, this time at 28.
In the third quarter, the game was tied at 34 and 38 before Robinson inched ahead. Dorsey’s 15-footer had Bryant within 41-40 going into the final seconds of the period but Gary Anderson, Jr., son of the former Arkansas Razorback and pro football player, beat the buzzer for a 3-point lead.
And when Preston Hinton scored on a baseline jay to start the final eight minutes, Robinson had its largest lead at 45-40.
Dorsey found Lynch inside for an answering hoop. After a Robinson turnover, Carter was fouled. He missed his second shot but Tucker kept the ball alive on the carom. He missed a follow shot but Dorsey rebounded and was fouled. He converted once to trim the margin to 45-44.
Williams scored but Chumley’s free throw and a layup by Carter tied the game at 47.