The Hustle tip off the regular season of the G League schedule tonight with the first matchup of a back-to-back with the South Bay Lakers. The Hustle finished the Showcase Cup strong, winning 8 of their last 10 games including both games in Las Vegas. The Lakers had a strong showing in the Showcase Cup portion of the schedule, going 13-5 as they entered Vegas as the 1-seed in the Winter Showcase Tournament. The Lakers lost their first matchup in Vegas before defeating the College Park Skyhawks in their second matchup. In the second year of the new G League schedule format, all records and stats are swiped clean as both the Hustle and Lakers enter the matchup 0-0.
The Hustle, looking to carry the momentum with them into the new regular season, had added reinforcements with Jake LaRavia and David Roddy joining two-way players Kenneth Lofton Jr. and Vince Williams Jr. down in Southaven. The Lakers would have the services of assignment player Max Christie alongside both two-way players Scotty Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider.
The Hustle were able to jump out to an early lead thanks to a strong start from their assignment and two-way players. The Lakers bring their assignment and two-way players off the bench, which helped allow the Hustle to take an early lead. The Hustle maintained a slim lead throughout a majority of the quarter as both teams took a little time to shake off some rust after having some time off with the Christmas holiday. The Hustle were able to hold onto the lead throughout the quarter as they took a 27-25 lead into the second frame. It was a solid start for Jake LaRavia and Kenneth Lofton Jr. who both scored 7 points for the Hustle and crashed the glass where they combined for 7 rebounds.
The Hustle were able to extend their lead out to 8 in the opening minutes of the quarter, thanks in large part to back-to-back triples from Vince Williams Jr. and Romeo Weems. The Hustle were able to frustrate the Lakers and extend their lead to as much as 9 in the quarter but couldn’t quite get it to double digits until the final seconds of the first half. The Hustle ultimately took a 52-45 lead into the halftime break.
It was a well-balanced first half for the Hustle with 9 of 10 players getting in the scoring column, led by Kenneth Lofton Jr. who had 9 points and 8 rebounds. Jake LaRavia chipped in 9 points and 4 rebounds, while Vince Williams Jr. (8 points) and David Roddy (7 points) were solid offensively as well. The Hustle defense played well in the first half, limiting the Lakers to 39% shooting from the field and 21.1% from beyond the arc. The Hustle couldn’t find a ton of success from deep, shooting 4-17, but found success inside the arc where they shot 17-30.
The Hustle found some success from beyond the arc to start the second half, but it was the defense that set the tone early with multiple Laker possessions ending with a shot clock violation or a last second attempt just to get a shot off. The Hustle were able to extend their lead a fair bit midway through the quarter as they were up as many as 15 points. The Hustle controlled the game the entire quarter, withstanding any Laker runs and taking a 20 point lead into the 4th quarter.
The Lakers went on a 9-4 run to start the 4th quarter, trimming the Hustle lead down to 15 in the span of just a couple of minutes. An early timeout by Jason March rallied the troops as the Hustle were able to respond and extend their lead back up to 21 by the 8 minute mark. The Hustle controlled the game the rest of the way as they defeated the Lakers 122-103.
Kenneth Lofton Jr. finished with a monster 18 point, 10 rebound double-double and had one of his better defensive games of the season. Jake LaRavia finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds, shooting 5-11 from the field and 2-4 from beyond the arc. David Roddy scored 17 points in his Hustle debut to go along with 3 rebounds and 4 assists. Vince Williams Jr. scored 17 points as well, including 7 rebounds and 2 steals. The Hustle had 7 guys score in double figures with 9 of 10 players getting in the scoring column. Jacob Gilyard was the unsung hero for the Hustle. Despite not scoring, Gilyard controlled the offense dishing out 8 assists and picking up 2 steals. It didn’t necessarily show in the box score, but Gilyard’s poise all game set the table for the Hustle to succeed on the offensive end.
The Hustle tip off the regular season 1-0 and will face off against the Lakers again tomorrow night at the Landers Center.