Defense shortcomings prove costly to UAPB

Joe French of UAPB drives past Josiah Hammons of Incarnate Word in the second half Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at H.O. Clemmons Arena. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

Offense hasn't been a problem early this season for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff men's basketball team, but defense has been an area needing improvement.

Those defensive concerns proved costly Saturday night in a 100-81 loss to the University of the Incarnate Word in H.O. Clemmons Arena.

UAPB Coach Solomon Bozeman said the Cardinals were the tougher team.

"We scored the ball, but as far as toughness, you gotta sit down and have grit," Bozeman said. "I thought we took a step back tonight. I thought [Central Arkansas] came out, and they were the tougher team last week in the first half, and I thought the last 10 or 12 minutes, we were the tougher team. So, right now, it's just a toughness deal for our team. It's not a talent issue."

Incarnate Word (2-2) shot 60.7% from the field, including 7 of 18 from 3-point range.

UAPB (3-2) shot a respectable 46.4% from the field but wasn't as sharp from deep as the past three games, shooting just 8 of 22.

The Cardinals entered the game averaging 77 points per game. UIW reached 77 points with 11:02 to play Saturday night. Five Cardinals scored in double digits, led by Josiah Hammons with 21 points and Sky Wicks with 20.

The Golden Lions also had five double-digit scorers, led by Kylen Milton with 17.

UAPB guard Lonnell Martin Jr. said the Golden Lions need to play more disciplined team defense.

"I don't think it came down to just one-on-one defense," Martin said. "I think it came to better rotation. Most of the shots came from rotation, and a lot of their 3-pointers came from offensive rebounds. When they got an offensive rebound, that's the best time for a 3-pointer."

UAPB struggled on the glass with UIW out-rebounding the Golden Lions 37-19. Even when UIW missed, the Cardinals got second chances thanks to 10 offensive rebounds compared to 4 by UAPB.

Martin said the Golden Lions weren't disciplined enough on the defensive end, which helped UIW win the rebounds.

"They were crashing every time," Martin said. "They were disciplined enough to go crash. We weren't disciplined enough to go hit every time."

Incarnate Word led most of the first half and all the second. The Golden Lions kept it close for most of the first half, even getting the deficit down to 31-30 with 5:36 left in the half. Hammons responded by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to rebuild the lead. The Cardinals led 50-41 at the break.

UIW opened the second half on a 12-2 run and never looked back. UAPB had moments where the Golden Lions would string a couple of plays together and get the crowd fired up, but UIW always had an answer.

Bozeman said UAPB needs to take this loss and build from it.

"Hopefully, we got guys in there that won't sleep tonight, because I know I won't sleep," Bozeman said. "It's just something that we gotta build on. ... We didn't guard anybody. At the end of the day, we gotta guard. We gotta take more pride on the defensive end."