When it ended, the Dunn-Oliver Acadome was full of jubilant energy and cheer as the Hornets made a critical defensive stop to hold off Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University Bulldogs, pulling out the narrow 59-55 victory on Jan. 15.
The Hornets did a great job taking advantage of finding holes in the No. 3 ranked defense in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). Sophomore guard Isaiah Range scored the first basket for the Hornets to start the game, followed by a three-pointer from junior guard E.J. Clark. This season, a constant for the Hornets is their ability to alter opposing teams’ shots in the paint with their size in the frontcourt, starting with Gerald Lidell and Jordan O’Neal. The Hornets jumped out to an early 12-6 lead forcing a Bulldogs timeout.
After the timeout, junior forward Trace Young made his much-anticipated return to the court after having not played since Dec. 28 when the Hornets faced Texas-Tech University. Young made an immediate impact, scoring on his first attempt of the night. He led the Hornets in scoring with 15 points on 6-of-13 from the field in just 16 minutes of action. In the first half, the Hornets played stifling defense which held the Bulldogs to just 30% from the field, while the Hornets were able to shoot 43% and pour in four threes. At the half, the Hornets led 30-22.
To begin the second half, the Bulldogs proved why they are one of the best defensive teams in the conference. Their tough defense forced the Hornets into shots that they were uncomfortable taking; they also forced a shot clock violation. The newly found life from the Bulldogs forced Hornets’ head coach Mo Williams to call a timeout. The Bulldogs were able to shrink the eight-point deficit to as little as three with 15:18 left in the game.
The Hornets only trailed once in this game for 30 seconds, even though they were outscored in the second half, 29-33. Each time the Bulldogs gained momentum, the Hornets put together a string of stops, or knocked down clutch buckets. With 1:12 left in the game, it was all tied at 55.
The Bulldog defense forced a shot-clock violation which resulted in them gaining possession, but the Hornets were able to make a huge defensive stand. The Hornets then forced a Bulldogs’ timeout with 21 seconds left in the game by making a clutch layup by sophomore guard Kenny Strawbridge.
The Bulldogs brought the ball down the court in hopes of tying the game or going for the win, but junior forward Gerald Lidell had other plans, stealing the ball from the bulldog’s guard. With Lidell’s motive, an intentional foul was called, where guard E.J. Clark knocked down two of the biggest shots of the night to give the Hornets a 59-55 victory.
Head Coach Mo Williams spoke of his team’s big rival, “We knew we were going to have our hands full with this team. We started out playing our 13 defense but in the second half, we switched to man. I thought we were able to respond to runs and mishaps and came out victorious. I always tell these guys these types of games come down to who makes plays and doesn’t turn the ball over.”
With this win, the Hornets moved to (3-2) in SWAC play and (4-13) overall. The Hornets will play their first game of a two-game road trip on Jan. 22 in Prairie View, Texas, against the Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University Panthers.