Hornets second half surge garners win over Bulldogs


Photo by Jaelyn Stansbury/Chief Photographer

During the Alabama State University vs. the Bethune-Cookman University football game, Bethune-Cookman’s quarterback Jalen Jones splits the Hornet defense for a huge Wildcat first down.

Kendal Manns, Editor-in-Chief

The Alabama State University Hornets men’s basketball team’s defensive intensity propelled them to a 69-61 win over their in-state rival Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University Bulldogs, capping off the second annual Bridge Builder Classic. Both teams were neck and neck in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) standings ahead of their Jan. 16 matchup.
The Hornets intensified their attack of the Bulldogs early, courtesy of back-to-back three-point scores from junior guard Isaiah Range. The Bulldogs responded with a fastbreak dunk by center Olisa Blaise Akonobi and a three-pointer by guard Messiah Thompson to put the score at 6-5 in the Hornets’ favor at the 17:46 mark.
Each team set the tone for the back-and-forth game, with both of them throwing haymakers at each other early. The Hornet defense aimed to clog the paint to prevent the twin towers of centers EJ Williams (6 ‘10) and Akonobi (7’ 0) from taking advantage of their one-on-one mismatches. Range continued to lead the Hornets’ scoring charge, while also being assisted by sophomore guard Alex Anderson, who rounded off four quick points on back-to-back possessions, giving the Hornets a 14-8 lead.
The Bulldogs tightened up their defense out of a timeout and started forcing Hornet turnovers. With so many bodies in the paint, it left more opportunities for Bulldog shots from the midrange and long range. Threes from guard Garrett Hicks and forward Xavier Brewer and contested paint buckets from Akonobi led to the Bulldogs taking the lead and turning the game on its head. With 4:22 remaining, the Bulldogs pushed their lead to seven.
Despite the momentum being in the Bulldogs’ favor, big shots from guards T.J. Madlock Jr. and Roland McCoy and back-to-back slams by junior forward Jordan O’Neal kept the contest within arm’s reach. The Bulldogs led by five points heading into halftime.
The Hornets erased their deficit quickly in the second half with a fastbreak layup from junior forward Duane Posey after a Madlock steal giving them back the lead 44-43 just three minutes in. Both teams traded scores back and forth for the next few possessions until a three-pointer from junior forward Eric Coleman initiated an 8-0 run by the Hornets.
With a stifling defensive effort, the Hornets locked down the Bulldogs from distance and in the paint. The Bulldogs could not recover from the Hornets’ onslaught as they cruised to the final margin.
Range recorded a game-high 18 points, along with two blocks, two rebounds and a steal. Madlock finished with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. O’Neal finished with a near double-double with nine points and a game-high nine rebounds. The Hornets narrowly led the battle in the paint scoring 28 paint points to the Bulldogs’ 26. Their points off turnovers (12) also gave them the edge over the Bulldogs (10).
Hicks handled the scoring load for the Bulldogs with 15 points, six rebounds and a game-high five steals. Akonobi finished with 10 points, six blocks and five rebounds. Their bench gave them a 21-12-point boost over the Hornets.
The Hornets look to build on their momentum heading into their first home contest of the semester against the Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University Panthers Jan. 21 at 5:30.