UAPB men glad to be returning home

Eric Coleman (23) of Alabama State and Ismael Plet (45) of UAPB battle for a rebound in the first half Jan. 8 at H.O. Clemmons Arena. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
Eric Coleman (23) of Alabama State and Ismael Plet (45) of UAPB battle for a rebound in the first half Jan. 8 at H.O. Clemmons Arena. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

After spending the past two weeks on the road, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff men's basketball team returns home this weekend.

The Golden Lions will host Alcorn State at 2:35 p.m. today at H.O. Clemmons Arena, then host Jackson State at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Junior guard Kylen Milton said the Golden Lions are excited to return home.

"I feel like we got the best crowd in the SWAC," Milton said. "So we just feed off of them. They always bring great energy when we playing at home, so it's just a big opportunity for us this weekend."

UAPB (10-12, 5-4 SWAC) played its past four games on the road, finishing 2-2. The Golden Lions beat Grambling State and Mississippi Valley State but fell to Southern and Prairie View A&M.

The Golden Lions will play five of their next seven games in Pine Bluff, starting this weekend. UAPB is 6-3 at home this season, including 2-2 in conference play. UAPB most recently swept a two-game home stand against Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman on Jan. 20 and 22, respectively.

First up, UAPB hosts Alcorn State (5-17, 4-5) on Saturday. The Braves are coming off home losses to Grambling and Southern but had previously won three straight games. Alcorn is 3-2 on the road in conference play.

On Monday, Jackson State (8-14, 4-5) comes to town. The Tigers have lost their past four games, all but one away from home. JSU won its first two conference road games but has lost two road games and a neutral site game since.

Alcorn State and Jackson State are among the SWAC's top four offensive rebounding teams. JSU is second with 13.3 per game, and Alcorn is fourth with 11.6 per game. Alcorn also has the best rebounding margin in the conference.

The Golden Lions rank last in the SWAC in offensive rebounding but first in defensive rebounding. UAPB coach Solomon Bozeman said UAPB needs to keep improving.

"We been mixing different lineups up that can help with that as well, with rebounding," Bozeman said. "So I think we're going to continue to improve in that area, but that's definitely the focus. You wanna win championships, you gotta defend and rebound."

Alcorn senior Jeremiah Kendall is the Braves' leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 boards a game. JSU junior Ken Evans Jr. leads the Tigers in scoring with 18.6 points per game, while junior Zeke Cook leads with 7.2 rebounds per game.

UAPB is currently tied for fifth place with Bethune-Cookman, against which the Golden Lions control the tiebreaker, but is only two games out of first place. Southern and Grambling are tied for the lead at 7-2, followed by Alabama State and Texas Southern at 6-3.

Four teams tied for seventh, including both of this weekend's opponents. The other two, Prairie View and Alabama A&M, beat UAPB, though the Golden Lions will get second chances against both.

Bozeman said the SWAC feels wide open, and consistency will be key to finishing at the top.

"Everybody seems like they're right there," Bozeman said. "I think over the next two weeks, I think you'll see some separation, so that's our focus right now. Just focus one game at a time."

Following these games, UAPB will have played every team in the SWAC this season. The seven remaining games will be rematches.

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