A seven-game Southwestern Conference win streak for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (7-15, 7-1) came to an end Saturday at the hands of the Grambling State University Tigers (9-12, 5-3).
It took every second of regulation to decide the game, and the Tigers were able to squeeze out a 69-68 win over the Golden Lions.
SWAC leading scorer and UAPB's go-to guy, junior guard Martaveous McKnignt, didn't have his best night, finishing with just nine points. McKnight is averaging 19.2 points per game, putting him 10 points behind his average.
Although it might not have been McKnight’s best outing, the Golden Lions managed to shoot 47 percent from the field. The Golden Lions went 12-22 from the free throw line.
The Tigers flustered UAPB early with their full court pressure, and they keyed in on McKnight. They weren't going to let him beat them. For Grambling, guard Shirmane Thomas hit timely shots all game long, including going 3-5 from long distance. Their leading scorer was his back court mate Ivy Smith Jr., who finished with a game-high 18 points.
With a below average night from McKnight, UAPB guard Charles Jackson stepped up to fill some of the scoring void. Joe'Randle Tolliver was 3-5 from deep, and he was able to get nice looks off drive and kicks.
In the low post, Grambling forward Jason Perry-Murray was efficient, and he allowed the Tigers to get the ball from the inside out to open shooters or slashers.
Down low for the Golden Lions Terrance Banyard and Travon Harper battled with the size of Grambling’s front court, and for the most part they held their own.
At halftime, Grambling led 38-33, and it was still anyone's ball game. However, Grambling came out of the break out-toughing the Golden Lions to go on a 6-2 run to take a 44-35 lead.
After sitting most of the second half for rest, McKnight entered the game with 15:13 to play, and he wouldn't come back out. It was UAPB freshman point guard Quamauri Hardy who provided a lift for the Golden Lions with a couple of pivotal decisions that kept UAPB right in it.
At the under 12 timeout, UAPB trailed by 8, and Ivory elected to apply a 2-2-1 press on the inbounds. That pressure forced Grambling into traps and into turnovers that UAPB capitalized on. McKnight scored his second field goal of the game to get him going, and it seemed as if the streak had a good shot of staying alive.
McKnight hit a slashing Christian Robertson for the go ahead lay up giving UAPB a 53-51 advantage. Both teams would then trade triples, but Grambling would score again before the under eight timeout to go up by one possession.
Out of the timeout, Grambling scored again on a put back, and at that time UAPB couldn't afford to trade baskets as they simply had to have stops. Charles Jackson went on a 4-0 run to bring UAPB within one point of the lead, but the Tigers would hit clutch free throws down the stretch to end this one, and end UAPB's unbeaten conference record.