Lions fall to Shorter in overtime

The North Alabama men’s basketball team returned home Feb. 4 for a thrilling game in Flowers Hall against the Shorter Hawks, but were on the wrong end of a 117-111 overtime game.

UNA overcame an 18-point deficit at the beginning of the second half to tie the game at 99 with seconds to go.

“At the start of the second half they came out and hit some shots, and we weren’t really guarding them,” said UNA head coach Bobby Champagne. “Then, we started doing a better job of guarding them and mainly did a better job of rebounding. That got us back in it when we were only giving up one shot.”

The Lions had to play much of the second half without Champagne on the sidelines. Champagne was called for a technical foul with under 11 minutes to play and ejected from the game. Assistant coach Eddie McCarter took over coaching duties the remainder of the game.

The overtime period was back and forth for most of the duration, but the Hawks started to pull away when the Lions missed two consecutive put-backs that would have put the Lions in the lead.

UNA then suffered a blow when senior guard Dimario Jackson fouled out with minutes to go in overtime.

The scoring surge was led in large part by Jackson who scored 20 points in the second half and overtime. He finished the game with a team-high 29 total points.

UNA prepared for a high-scoring game, knowing that they had to try and slow down the nation’s leading scorer, Phil Taylor. Taylor is averaging 34.1 points per game this season.

Junior guard Jeff Hodge defended Taylor throughout the game and kept him below his average with 25 points, including a season-low 17 points in regulation.

“They’ve got the number one scorer in the nation,” he said. “We were focused on icing ball screens and making sure we got the ball out of Phil’s hands and just try to contest when they shot. We knew they were pretty good shooters but we wanted to contest hard and make them drive through baseline so we could force turnovers.”

Hodge was one of five players to score in double-digits versus the Hawks. Jackson led with 29, followed by Austin Timms and Tavaras Tolliver with 24 points each. Hodge finished third with 12 points, while Sharwyn McGee finished out with 10 points.

McGee also led the team in rebounds with 14 to give him a double-double.

The loss drops UNA to 12-10 overall and 7-9 in the Gulf South Conference, falling to eighth place in the standings heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

UNA will travel to West Georgia on Feb. 9 and at in-state rival West Alabama on Feb. 11.

The Lions will return to Flowers Hall Feb. 16 to face West Florida.