CHICAGO — For the opening 15 minutes in Saturday night's game at DePaul, Arkansas-Pine Bluff appeared to be willing and able to give its opponent from the Big East Conference a run for its money.
CHICAGO — For the opening 15 minutes in Saturday night’s game at DePaul, Arkansas-Pine Bluff appeared to be willing and able to give its opponent from the Big East Conference a run for its money.
The Golden Lions trailed by just three points with under 5 minutes left in the first half. UAPB’s top scorer, Savalace Townsend was beginning to heat up, scoring seven of his team’s last eight points.
But DePaul had seen enough.
The Blue Demons sent any thought the Golden Lions had of an upset down the drain with a run that gave them a 20-point halftime lead en route to an 81-62 victory at McGrath-Phillips Arena, on the north side of Chicago.
“They were getting easy layups off our turnovers, shooting threes while we weren’t getting the ball past half-court,” Townsend said, “Four times down the court they were getting layups and threes and we weren’t productive.”
UAPB (1-8) had a promising start to the game, taking a 6-3 lead following a slam dunk and jumper from the right baseline by forward Daniel Broughton. The Lions led 8-5 after Jamar Harris scored on a layup.
And after falling behind 20-16, Townsend, who came into the contest averaging 18.4 points per game, scored three consecutive baskets and hit a free throw to pull the Lions within 27-24 with 4:29 to play before the break.
But that’s when the bottom fell out.
Starting with a putback slam by Krys Faber and ending with a layup from Moses Morgan, DePaul completed a 10-0 run for a 37-24 lead.
The Blue Demons (8-3) weren’t done punishing the Lions. By the time halftime arrived, DePaul had scored 21 of the last 25 points for a commanding 48-28 lead.
“The last three minutes of the first half we had too many turnovers and we dug that hole and it was hard to get out of,” Lions coach George Ivory said.
By looking at the field goal percentages in the first half alone, it would appear that UAPB had the edge, shooting 57 percent to DePaul’s 47.5. But the Lions took 19 fewer shots and made seven fewer baskets.
UAPB went 0-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line and turned the ball over a whopping 15 times to the Blue Demons five in the first 20 minutes. Those miscues led to 24 DePaul points in the first half, 33 for the game off 22 turnovers.
About the only energy the Lions showed in the last 4 minutes of the half was when Broughton and DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin shoved each other and exchanged words after a hard play.
DePaul didn’t let up in the second half, leading 65-38 in the first six minutes. The Blue Demons held four, 27-point leads in the last 20 minutes.
Townsend scored a game-high 23 points while Broughton added 18 and Mitchell Anderson chipped in 14 for the Lions. DePaul was led by Brandon Young, who scored 19, and Jeremiah Kelly with 15.
UAPB now has lost six straight. The Lions’ last win came on Nov. 21 against Florida International.
They play their next game on Wednesday at Cincinnati, followed by a tournament at Texas-El Paso beginning Dec. 28. The Lions don’t play their first home game until Jan. 14.
“We had a nice amount of fans, alumni here in Chicago, but it’s different when you go on the road,” Townsend said. “The main thing is continuing to have confidence and have faith in yourself. We cherish the home games that we do have and want to take advantage of them.”
The tough slate of road games is providing the Lions with a good amount of experience once they begin play in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
“One thing we always talk about is our goal of winning the SWAC championship,” Ivory said “These games are helping us learn and prepare on what we need to work on.”
A positive from the DePaul game is that UAPB finished with a 43.6 field goal percentage, an improvement on its 37.2 average. But it was the turnovers that hurt.
“We’re doing some good things, but the most important thing is taking care of that basketball,” Ivory said, “DePaul did a great job, they came out and put on a lot of pressure.”