Bulldogs, Braves on opposite ends in SWAC

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

LORMAN &045; Alabama A&M head coach Vann Pettaway had to smile after his club left the Whitney Complex with a win, and it had nothing to do with staying in first place.

His Bulldogs finally won at Alcorn, and he wanted to tell everyone.

&uot;This is my first time winning here in six years,&uot; Pettaway said after his Bulldogs disposed of Alcorn 77-63 Saturday. &uot;They play so well here. We haven’t played some of our better games here. We were able to keep them off the free throw line.&uot;

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That the Bulldogs did &045; along with a number of other things Saturday to stay atop the standings and keep the Braves struggling. The loss sent the Braves to last place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference standings at 4-10 in a tie with Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

But give credit to the Bulldogs, who may be one of the better defensive teams in the conference.

&uot;This game right here &045; this was probably one of our best games,&uot; said guard Obie Trotter, who led the way with 21 points after putting up 16 in the first half. We played with so much intensity. We knew they were gunning for us. They’re still trying to make it to the playoffs. This game meant a lot to them. We came out there and pumped it up.&uot;

The loss put a serious damper on the Braves’ postseason hopes, although they have another shot today when they host Alabama State. But the schedule doesn’t get any easier for a team that’s in danger of missing the tournament for the first time in school history after tonight &045; next week at Southern and end the regular season at Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern.

That’s the assignment at hand for the Braves, and they’re up for it. They squeezed in last year as the No. 8 seed thanks to two wins in the final weekend.

&uot;It’s better to come in the back door than not to come in at all,&uot; Alcorn head coach Samuel West said. &uot;We’re just trying to get to the dance. We just want to get to the dance.&uot;

The Bulldogs exposed Alcorn’s weakness this season in its guard play thanks to an aggressive defensive effort from Trotter and other guards. The Braves finished the game with 23 turnovers and had some breakdowns late in the game with passes that went to no one, one mistake early in the second half on an inbounds play and just mental mistakes.

A high number of turnovers has been about as welcome to West and his staff as someone from the IRS this season. Saturday night put the team at an even 500 for the season &045; tops in the conference.

Alcorn had 560 last season, also a league-worst.

&uot;At home we gave them about the same pressure,&uot; Trotter said. &uot;Defensively, they couldn’t handle the pressure well. Our coach was telling us that all week. We basically just trapped everywhere. I think that trap just killed them.&uot;

Then Alcorn kept sending A&M to the line instead of forcing them to knock down jumpers. The Braves sent the visitors to the line for 26 free throws in the second half as the Bulldogs hit 22 of 38 for the game &045; including 11 of 12 from Marcus Young off the bench.

&uot;We were trying to put some pressure on them and make them turn the ball over,&uot; Alcorn point guard Alleo Frazier said. &uot;They key drawing fouls, and the next thing you know they’re on the free throw line. Then they started knocking down free throws and weren’t missing.&uot;