BRYANT – Sophomore K.J. Hill poured in 20 points, Greyson Giles added 10, but their efforts fell short as the Bryant Hornets fell to the visiting Little Rock Fair War Eagles 56-48 on Tuesday night.
Despite outscoring Fair 38-35 in the second half, Bryant Head Coach Mike Abrahamson said his team wasn’t ready from the opening tip.
“We didn’t want this one for some reason,” Abrahamson said. “We weren’t ready to play.”
Fair opened the first quarter with a patient offensive approach against the Bryant zone defense. By doing so, the War Eagles were able to slow the tempo of the game down to their preference, and wait for their best look. Despite the slow pace, Bryant held a 7-4 lead until Fair knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to knot the game at 7.
Fair would use that momentum and carry it into the second quarter. Dating back to the first frame, the War Eagles went on a 13-0 run and led 17-7 with 4:06 remaining in the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Hill ended the drought for the Hornets and brought the score to 17-10 with 2:03 left in the first half. Hill’s 3-pointer would be the Hornets only points in the quarter. Fair would go on and outscore Bryant 14-3 in the second quarter, and led 21-10 at the half.
Bryant shot 27 percent from the field in the first half. Hill had seven of Bryant’s 10 total points.
“We started the game giving up offensive rebounds and turning the ball over,” Abrahamson said. “I don’t think it was the first quarter, I think it was the beginning of the first quarter. I think it was before the tip. I think it was our mentality sometime between our shoot-around and the tip of the game.”
Bryant came out in the second half switching from its traditional zone defense to a man-to-man pressure defense, hoping to create some turnovers and spark some easy offense.
“We didn’t have a choice,” Abrahamson said. “If we didn’t, they would just hold it. So we didn’t have a choice there. Our zone has been pretty effective for us, but tonight we were very lazy in it and didn’t rebound out of it.”
The switch provided some temporary positive results, as Bryant scratched and clawed its way back into the game. A 3-pointer by Giles cut the Fair lead to 30-25 with 2:40 left in the third quarter. Momentum clearly shifted in favor of the home team after a layup by Hill brought Bryant within three points of Fair with 1:20 remaining in the quarter. Heading into the final quarter, Fair was clinging to a 32-27 lead.
Down the stretch, the War Eagles simply proved to be too much for the Hornets. Each time Bryant threatened to make a run, Fair had an answer. A 3-pointer by Tyler Simmons cut Fair’s lead to 49-44 with 1:25 remaining in the contest, but that’s as close as the Hornets would get. Empty trips on the offensive end for Bryant translated to free throws for Fair. The War Eagles would knock down 14 free throws in the final frame, en route to an impressive road victory.
“We may need to make a few changes in what we do and in preparation,” Abrahamson said. “We can’t go back and play this one, so we got Sheridan on Friday. We’ll fix it.”