Hornets win over Alabama A & M Bulldogs

Mason Smith, Sports and Intramurals Editor

In the biggest rivalry game of the season, the Alabama State Hornets were able to defeat the Alabama A&M Bulldogs 72-58 in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome.

Hornet Brandon Battle put in another excellent performance, leading all scorers with 23 points on 57% shooting from the floor. Hornet Forward Kenny Strawbridge and guard DJ Heath did well against the Bulldogs. Strawbridge put up 18 points to go with seven rebounds and two blocks, and Heath scored 17 points while going 3 of 4 from the 3-point range.

Freshman Hornet DJ Jackson added nine points in 28 minutes, and Hornet Jordan O’Neal continued to display his defensive prowess with a game-high three blocks.

The Hornets offense had its best game yet, and it’s only gotten better as the season goes on.

“We’re not playing for ourselves, but for the next person,” said Strawbridge, who also shot 60% from deep. “Playing together, making the extra pass. Everybody’s getting open shots… it’s nice to see the offense clicking today.”

Tucker Cameron led Alabama A&M Bulldogs with 14 points, and Bulldog Dailin Smith was second on the team with 11 on 50% shooting. Bulldogs Jalen Johnson and Garrett Hicks, who are both top five in SWAC scoring, combined for only 14 points on a disappointing 3 of 13 shooting. The Bulldogs shot well in the first half, but the second half is where they got cold, shooting under 20% from the floor and failing to make a 3-pointer.

“We’re a pretty good team when we’re locked in and focused,” coach Mo Williams shared when asked about the defensive effort.

“That’s the part I’ve been battling all year with our group,” Williams said. I saw from practice how focused we were, and rewind to Monday (a loss against Mississippi Valley) you saw how unfocused we were, and you saw the outcome of both games.”

The Hornets had a slow start in the first half, starting on the wrong end of a 13-4 run. This isn’t the first time the Hornets started late, and soon they started doing what they do best: forcing turnovers and scoring in the paint.

Hornets Battle and Heath began attacking the rim, giving the offense a boost and opening the door for Strawbridge to knock down two of his three 3-pointers. After a quick run by the Hornets, the two teams traded baskets until the Hornets ended on a 5-0 run to end the half down 34-28.

After halftime, it was all Hornets. The Hornets carried the momentum from the end of the first half and eventually took the lead on a layup from Battle at the 16:55 minute mark, the game’s early leader. The Bulldogs didn’t go away easily, as they traded baskets again until Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 12:45 to go. That marked the last time Hornets trailed in the game.

This was the sixth consecutive game the Hornets scored over 60 points, and the third time, they scored over 70. Each time the Hornets hit the floor, the improvement is noticeable, and it’s no better time than to show that improvement against their biggest rival. This was also the first rivalry game for Strawbridge and coach Williams.

“This was something I’ve anticipated and prepared for all week … a true definition of having pride,” Williams said. “From the players to the coaches, to even the administration, you felt that energy in here tonight.”

Williams wasn’t shy about his appreciation for the fans, and he, along with the team, gave them something to cheer about. The plan is to keep the good times rolling as they prepare to face the SWAC leading scorer in Troymain Crosby and Alcorn State on Feb. 20 in Lorman, Miss.