“This was a major victory for not only A&M men’s basketball but the University and the conference,” said Hayes.
Juniors Jeremy Crutcher and Demarquelle Tabb led the Bulldogs with 14 each while Tabb posted seven boards and Crutcher collected five assists. Brandon Ellis finished with his season high 13 points and three steals.
Although G. A. Hill totaled seven points, those were the difference makers as he scored the final points to helped A&M claim their first victory over Mississippi State.
The game did not start off well for the Bulldogs as MSU jumped out to a 27-12 lead which was their largest of the contest.
The 5:21 mark rolled around and saw State holding a 30-15 advantage when the tables started to turn in A&M’s favor.
Hayes and company then went on a 10-3 run to end the first half and cut the lead to eight. Justan Banks got a dunk to give the Maroon & White a momentum bucket going into half-time down 33-25.
“The main thing we wanted to do is keep the ball out of the interior,” Hayes mentioned. “State hit some jumpers early but my thing was to pressure the guards and keep the ball out of the paint.”
“The players stayed poised throughout the contest. They never quit even when we lost the lead a few times they continued to fight,” Hayes quoted.
The run continued in the second half as AAMU scored the first eight points before State hit their first two. From there the lead changed hands on seven different occasions as the home crowd started chanting for the Dogs but the A&M faithful, which was sitting behind the bench, gave the Bulldogs the motivation they needed.
A&M claimed their first lead of the game at the 11:25 mark 39-38.
Mississippi State grabbed a four point lead at the 10:04 mark 43-39 but two free throws by Crutcher, then a lay-up by Ellis tied the score. Once again State grabbed a four point lead 47-43 but a three pointer by Ellis cut that lead to one.
Alabama A&M then grabbed their second lead at the 4:16 mark by one 52-51 but MSU was able to regain the lead and push it to five with 2:18 remaining 57-52.
That’s when Hill took over the game and rebounded a Crutcher miss and was fouled. The best free-throw shooter on the team then hit two straight from the charity stripe. He then stole the ball and laid it up to cut the lead to one. Another Hill steal and layup put AAMU up by one 58-57. Hill then hit the first of two shots to give A&M a 59-57 lead. On the second free-throw the Boise State transfer rebounded his lone miss and held it to run out the clock and give Alabama A&M their fourth win of the year.
“This was one of those games we knew we could win. Mississippi State had a lot of injuries and we knew we could take advantage of that,” Hayes continued.
“We came out in the second half and got out to a fast start something we always try to do,” Hayes said. “Ball pressure created the opportunities we needed due to their lack of available players.”
On G. A. Hill’s play coach Hayes was quoted saying, “G. A’s tenacity is what gave us the lead and was crucial to the victory.”
The win is a first in five tries for A&M and a first versus a team from the Southeastern Conference.
Craig Sword scored 14 points to lead the Dogs while Gavin Ware scored 12 points and totaled 11 rebounds.
The Bulldogs will look to continue the win streak when they open SWAC play versus Grambling State on Wednesday, January 2nd. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. in Elmore Gymnasium.
– Courtesy: Alabama A&M Sports Information