Senior guard Marcus Davis scored 22 points, including 7-of-7 from the free-throw line, and freshman guard James Harper added 11 points, hitting 3-of-4 three-point shots, to lead the Houston Baptist University Huskies to a 72-68 win over the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions in their season opener at the Rainbow Classic Friday night at Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
HBU went on a 10-1 run in the second half to break open a close game, and then had to hold off a furious rally by the Golden Lions in the final two minutes to capture the victory.
“We talk to our guys a lot about how you have to play a full 40 minutes and we had a couple of mental lapses there late in the game,” HBU head coach Ron Cottrell said following the win, “but we were able to hit free throws when we need to and close the win out.”
UAPB led by one at 53-52 with 9:53 remaining, but HBU took control with a 10-1 run over the next 4:48 to jump out to a 62-53 advantage.
Harper’s third three-pointer of the game gave the Huskies’ their largest lead of the game at ten points with 2:08 remaining, 68-58.
But the Golden Lions would score eight unanswered points in less than a minute to get within two at 68-66, but sophomore point guard Marcel Smith and Davis each made a pair of free throws to secure the win.
“We didn’t play the best we can play, there’s no doubt about that,” the head coach stated, “but we had some guys step up tonight when we needed them to step up.”
Along with his perfect night at the free-throw line, Davis’ stat line included six rebounds, an assist and a steal in 33 minutes.
“We have to have Marcus play like that almost every night,” Cottrell said. “He’s such a difference-maker with what he can do for our team offensively and defensively.”
Harper was one of five Huskies freshmen who combined to score 29 points. He also posted four steals and three rebounds.
Guard Caleb Crayton, another freshman, posted a team-high seven rebounds and added eight points. Senior forward Art Bernardi had nine points and six rebounds for the Huskies.
Terrell Kennedy led the scoring for UAPB (0-1) with 19 points. He was one of four Lions in double figures. Tevin Hammond added 14 points, Davon Haynes had 13 points and Lazabian Jackson scored 12 points and had six rebounds for the Golden Lions.
The victory broke a four-game losing streak in season openers for HBU. The Huskies last won a season-opener on November 3, 2007 with a 67-62 win over Trinity.
The Huskies outrebounded the Golden Lions, 45-39, including an 18-14 advantage on the offensive glass and HBU’s bench outscored the UAPB’s, 27-4.
The Huskies next face Maryland-Eastern Shore on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. CT, before taking on the host Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors on Tuesday at 3 a.m. CT. The game against Hawai’i will be shown live on ESPN as a part of the network’s College Hoops Tipoff Marathon.
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