Taylor Florence’s jump shot had fallen for most of the fourth quarter, but when it counted most, he came up short.
Hickman lost 71-69 to Poplar Bluff on Sunday at the MFA Oil Break Time Shootout at Hearnes Center. Florence’s 8-foot jumper from just inside the lane at the buzzer hit the rim but bounced away to the left, dropping Hickman to 4-7.
“I tried to go in and do just what I was doing in the second half, and it didn’t fall,” Florence said.
Florence, a 6-foot-7 sophomore guard, scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Florence penetrated the lane and scored with 16.7 seconds left to tie the game at 69. Sophomore Poplar Bluff responded quickly, though. Ben Hansbrough drove the length of floor and was fouled scoring on a layup. He missed the free throw, and Hickman regained the ball with 6.3 seconds left to set up Florence’s final shot.
“I can’t think of anyone else I had more faith in than (Florence),” Hickman coach Jim Sutherland said. “As he gets stronger, he’ll finish those shots.”
The game was a back-and-forth struggle with 10 ties and 13 lead changes.
Hickman hit 5-of-7 3-pointers and shot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half. Poplar Bluff shot 50 percent and countered Hickman’s 3-point attack by shooting 11-of-13 from the free-throw line. Poplar Bluff led 38-36 at the half.
The second half provided much of the same. Hickman outscored Poplar Bluff 13-9 in the third quarter for a 49-47 lead.
Hickman’s perimeter shooting fell off in the second half. It made only 3-of-9 3-pointers and relied more on Florence’s ability to penetrate.
Poplar Bluff leaned on its inside play, scoring 18 points from under the basket in the second half, 36 for the game.
Most came from Tyler Hansbrough, a 6-9 junior forward. Hansbrough scored 32 for the Mules. He also had 13 rebounds and was 18-of-20 from the free-throw line.
“I thought we did a good job on him for three quarters,” Sutherland said. “We just fouled him too many times, and he knocked them down.”
The Kewpies went 9-of-12 from the free-throw line. Poplar Bluff made 23-of-29.
Taylor Trogdon had 15 to lead Hickman. Ben Hansbrough, Tyler’s younger brother, had 15 for the Mules.
Hickman shot 50 percent from field and 75 percent from the free-throw line. Poplar Bluff shot 46.8 percent from the field and 79.3 percent on free throws.