HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Alabama A&M (1-5, 0-0 SWAC) faced a challenge early in the season as they used a second-half rally to thwart an angry bid from NAIA UT-Southern (6-2, 3-0 MSC) and scored the Finals nine points in a 90-79 win in an NCAA Division I men’s basketball game on Thursday, November 25.
Junior guard Messiah Thompson (Atlanta, Georgia) rained threes all night, going 6 of 10 from beyond the arc and 9 of 14 from the field on his way to a game-high 26 points along with three rebounds and three steals.
He was accompanied by the Graduate Guard Brandon Powell(Huntsville, Alabama) with a Big Man-style double-double of 14 points and 11 boards — five of them on offense — and a junior forward Dailyin Smith (Colorado Springs, Colorado) dropped 17 points in 6-of-7 shooting off the line to walk with six kills and four steals. Senior Guard Garret Hicks (Madison, Alabama) added 14 points, four boards and a five-assist game-high to round out the top performers.
A mismatch only when viewed from the perspective of an NAIA playing an NCAA Division I program on the road, the Firehawks showed early on that it was anything but. Falling 7-3 after the first 2:38, they responded with five straight points as part of a 10-2 run that took them 13-9 by the 14-07 mark.
It would continue to be a back-and-forth as a three-pointer from Thompson capped a 5-0 burst for a 14-13 A&M lead, only to see UTS go 18-14 with five straight replies of their own withdrew mid-half. The Bulldogs would find themselves in a dogfight throughout the frame as clubs then fought off four ties and as many lead changes, a stretch that would eventually end with UT-Southern holding a 39-37 lead at the break.
The Firehawks opened the second half with another 5-0 minirun, scored by Kavion Hancock with a three to give themselves a 44-37 lead in the first minute before Thompson made a jump and three in a 7 : 0-tie knocked down run with 16:49 to play.
From that 44-44 deadlock, teams fought their way through a tie and three lead changes, the last of which came from Alabama A&M, trailing 56-55 at 11:32 a.m. That lead change would spark a 12-0 run led by four different scorers, six by Hicks who looked like it might have been the knockout shot. That shouldn’t be the case as UT-Southern came right back with a 15-6 run over the next 5:36, pulling them to 73-71.
Adarion Hudson would make it an 18-6 series as he pinned the three-pointer go-ahead at the 4:38 mark, only to see Hicks do the same to flip the script and make it 76 to make -74. It would be haymaker after haymaker as Tad Sivley drilled a three to regain the lead just outside four minutes, but Thompson and Hicks responded with a jumper and long ball for an 81-77 lead 3:07, to play.
Sivley would bring the Firehawks back within two with a fastbreak jumper at the 2:20 mark, but it would be the last time their side of the scoreboard would change. Those last two plus minutes would belong to Alabama A&M as they collected the final nine points, five from Thompson, to walk away with the 90-79 win, a lead that doesn’t indicate the type of game it was actually about .
It would be Sivley leading UTS with 19 points in 8-of-11 shooting to go with five boards while Hancock dropped 18 with a 4-of-8 performance past the arc and four assists. Kendall Wright added 14 points, three caroms and three assists and Brady Brown grabbed 10 boards with six points and three assists. Hudson capped the top performers with eight points and a game high with five assists and two steals.
The Bulldogs aren’t taking too much time off the field as they get right back into action on Monday, November 28 when they host former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Kenny Anderson’s Fisk program. Game time is set at 7:00 p.m. in the Event Center.