RADFORD, Va. – Hampton placed two players atop the Big South scoring leaders list nearly all year. Its defense, on the other hand…well, that’s another story.
With postseason play approaching, the sense of urgency for the Pirates became that much greater. The response – for one round, at least – matched the urgency.
No. 5 Hampton limited No. 4 Longwood to just 33.3 percent from the floor and 29 percent from distance, clamping down on the Lancers in a 78-53, quarterfinal victory Friday night at the Dedmon Center.
“I think defensively we finally played a complete 40 minutes of basketball. That’s one thing I think we’ve been lacking all year,” said Hampton coach Buck Joyner. “We felt like we always give a good 20, but it was a good 40 that we needed.”
Longwood (14-18) took a 5-2 lead to the first media break of the game but would lead for just one more minute over the course of the contest. Greg Heckstall quickly neutralized the margin with consecutive triples, sparking a 27-5 Pirate burst over the next 11 minutes of the period. Heckstall himself outscored the Lancers in the stanza, tallying 15 points. Hampton took a 33-14 lead to the locker room, with the Lancers’ 14-point total just two away from the lowest point total in a half in a Big South tournament contest.
Hampton (14-18) maintained its vise-like grip on the game as the second half began. A Jermaine Marrow trey two minutes into the period advanced the lead past 20, where it stayed. Even when Longwood found itself in the midst of a string of successful shots, Hampton continued to hold the Lancers at a safe distance by stringing together makes of its own. Many of those makes came from All-Conference performer Jermaine Marrow, who tallied 20 second-half points.
“When we got in the locker room – everybody on the team, we’re never down on each other. Even if you see us getting on somebody, we just want them to be better,” Marrow commented. “When we came in the locker room, they got on me and said, ‘Man, we know you’re the best player on this court.’ In the second half, I felt like I showed it.”
Then, there was the defense.
“First off, we’ve been bad defensively. It starts with (Marrow and me),” said Heckstall. “(He and I) had a talk, and we just said that the team (isn’t) gonna follow if we don’t play defense. (He and I) had to step up and play defense tonight and bring the intensity. The team followed us, and that’s what got us the ‘W.’”
Longwood entered the game having won 7-of-9 games. Lancers coach Griff Aldrich was reflective in his postgame remarks.
“This game will not define our season. The reality is (that) it’s been a really hard season. For the last couple of weeks, there’s been a great turnaround,” Aldrich stated. “We hit a really challenging period. For me to get to see our guys come in, day in and day out, and continue to battle … To a man, our guys continued to come in and really invest in the team and the program, and in each other, and do whatever they felt like they could do to help us be successful.”
Marrow led the Pirates and all scorers with 32. Heckstall finished with 17, while Ben Stanley added 12 points and six boards. The Pirates shot 50.9 percent for the game, buoyed by a 65.4 percent second half.
Jaylon Wilson contributed 17 points in 19 minutes on 6-for-10 shooting. Juan Munoz added 10 points for the Lancers.
Hampton advances to play top-seeded Radford in Friday’s late semifinal game. Tip time is slated for approximately 8:30.