On the heels of a 3-0 start to Southwestern Athletic Conference play, the Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball team had a chance to make a statement against league-leader Southern on Saturday night.
Its opponent stole the show.
High-flying Southern entertained the home crowd for 40 dominant minutes, soaring for four dunks, knocking down 11 3-pointers, swiping 10 steals and, in general, doing whatever it wanted in an 84-50 rout of UAPB at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
The Jaguars (11-6, 5-0) led by double figures from 15-5 on.
“When I looked up and saw we had a comfortable lead, the game became way more fun,” Southern junior Malcolm Miller said. “We got to relax a little bit and tried to do some things to keep the crowd entertained. We were just having fun out there basically.”
No one was more entertaining than Miller, whose performance in helping Southern start SWAC play 4-0 — three games with 20-plus points — earned him the conference’s Player of the Week honor.
Up to his old tricks once again, Miller had 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including a 5-of-9 effort from 3-point range and a pair of first-half dunks. He also grabbed nine rebounds.
Running mate Derick Beltran had 22 points on 8-of-20 shooting, including four 3’s and one dunk.
But everyone got in the act.
Javan Mitchell scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Brandon Moore had 10 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting. Yondarius Johnson scored 13 points in 25 minutes off the bench.
As the final seconds ticked away, freshman Christopher Hyder — making his fourth career start in place of injured senior Jameel Grace — stepped to the top of the key and beat the buzzer for the final margin.
The crowd, one last time, came to its feet.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a crowd like that on a consistent basis,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “I think our guys fed off that energy. I think that energy spilled onto the court. We played with a lot of energy.”
The last time Southern began 5-0 in conference play, the Jaguars ultimately punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament.
This year’s team still has a long ways to go, but it can do that 2005-06 squad one better by beating Mississippi Valley State at home Monday and completing a 6-0 start.
Southern leads Alcorn State by one game in the SWAC standings.
After taking a pair of hard-fought victories against Texas Southern and Prairie View to open league play, the Jaguars have won their last three games in the conference by double figures.
Saturday was supposed to be a stiffer test given UAPB’s fast start.
But the Golden Lions had won their three SWAC games without having to hit the road.
Southern got up 7-2 in the first four minutes and never trailed.
“Coach really stressed to us how good of a ball club they are,” Miller said. “We didn’t want them to get in any kind of rhythm.”
Terrell Kennedy led UAPB in scoring with 18 points and was joined in double figures by Davon Haynes with 11.
The Lions shot 30.4 percent from the field.