Albany State guard Stephen Francis (11) drives into the lane and dishes out an assist during Thursday’s conference game against Kentucky State. The Rams struggled early and never recovered falling, 71-64. (Photo by firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — For about 10 minutes Albany State’s men’s basketball team went all out.
They hustled for loose balls, communicated on both ends of the court and defended whomever had the ball.
Ultimately, however, their solid play was too little, too late. Despite a 21-point lead reduced to five points with 36 seconds left in regulation, Kentucky State held on to beat the Rams, 71-64, on Thursday night at the HPER Gymnasium.
The Rams’ inconsistency was once again their Achilles heel.
“I don’t know what was wrong with those guys (Thursday) night,” Albany State head coach Chris Cameron said bluntly. “We are so up and down, and I’m holding every player in the locker room accountable. They didn’t bring it; we gave this game away because we didn’t play.”
The Thorobreds (4-3 overall, 4-3 on conference play) on the other hand, who were playing in their sixth straight road game, did their homework, came out and executed a sound gameplan.
“One thing about us, when we say we’re going to play Kentucky State basketball we’re going to get up in you,” Kentucky State head coach Antwain Banks said. “We’re going to lock up, defend and make it hard on the opponent. Our offense is going to be off our defense.”
It was because of the Thorobreds’ aggressive style Albany State (3-5, 2-4) fell behind by 14 points in the first half. The Rams turned the ball over nine times and had just four assists.
“It was hard given the pressure they put on us,” Albany State forward and former Worth County star Joshua Alford admitted. “We just have to control the ball and run our offense.”
Albany State’s Demarcus Blunt, the former Albany Tech star and Cordele native who led the team in scoring with 13 points, expressed more disgust in his post-game comments.
“We were just very inconsistent on defense, nobody was talking — we pretty much just played bad, he said before adding, “We were just bad.”
Alford and Rachard Lofton scored 22 of the Rams’ 64 points, each notching 11. Michael Tippins was active on defense with four steals to go with eight points and eight rebounds.
After leading by 10 at halftime, Kentucky State busted the game wide open in the second half, forcing nine more turnovers to go up by as many as 21 points. Troy Adams came off the bench and knocked down three 3s, while William Marsh scored a game-high 18 points.
The Thorobreds gradually took their feet off the gas, committing several turnovers themselves that opened the door for Albany State to make a comeback.
“We got a little lackadaisical at the end, and you’ll have that because we are still young,” Banks said. “With each game we try to build our mental toughness.
“We will learn from losing a big lead like that, but I don’t care whether we win at the buzzer by one point or two points, I’ll take any road win especially one against Albany State.”
Thursday’s loss did not complete deflate the Rams, however, after they beat Lane at home Monday. They remain confident that they can quickly turn things around as they get ready to host rival Fort Valley State Saturday at 8 p.m.
“We are just going to use this game as a positive for the next one,” Blunt said. “We are a family so we just have to get it together and we’ll be fine.”
ASU WOMEN 72, KENTUCKY STATE 67: Breanna Fields’ 20 points and Symone Wilkerson’s near triple-double (11 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds) were enough to edge out the Throbrettes.
The final numbers were fairly even for the teams, but the difference for Albany State came on the defensive end in the closing minutes.
“We both were sloppy playing (Thursday) night and didn’t protect the basketball, but at the end of the game I think we did a little bit better job of protecting the ball than they did,” Albany State head coach Robert Skinner said. “They made a couple of mistakes, crucial mistakes, at the end of the game and cost them some opportunities to get shots up.”
ASU (3-7, 3-3) will next host a doubleheader with the men Saturday against FVSU, with the women’s game beginning at 6 p.m.
Minus Fann, Darton still rolls East Georgia, 62-46 for third Region XVII win
ALBANY — Chantaneice Fann wasn’t in Darton’s lineup Thursday as she continued to recover from symptoms of a mild concussion.
Lucky for the Lady Cavs, Amber McKenzie had her back.
McKenzie played what Darton coach Lea Henry called “amazing defense” all game and held East Georgia down in the Lady Cavs’ 62-46 win.
“It was tough adjusting to playing without Chan,” Henry said. “But Amber did a great job in her place.”
Darton leading scorer Michelle Mitchell led the way once again, posting a double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds), followed by 21 points from Christina Brown.
The win improves Darton to 8-5 overall and 3-2 in region. Darton next hosts local rival Albany Tech at 6 p.m.