Men’s basketball struggles during road trip

In their Dec. 4 home game versus Alabama-Huntsville, North Alabama forward Austin Timms drives to the basket for a layup attempt. UNA returned from their first Gulf South Conference road trip without a win, and look to get back in the win column Dec. 7 when they host Christian Brothers.

The conference woes continue for the men’s basketball team, as North Alabama fell to both Valdosta State and West Florida in a two game road swing Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.

UNA (6-5, 1-4 Gulf South Conference) is now on a three-game losing skid. Both the Blazers and Argonauts shot over 50 percent on its field goals to earn strong offensive performances over the Lions.

“Sometimes teams are shooting it good, but that’s only part of the story,” said UNA coach Bobby Champagne. “Some of that would come back to our defense I would think.”

The Lions struggled in the second half after just trailing by one to Valdosta State at halftime. UNA saw a 45-44 deficit turn into a 99-82 loss, despite taking a 68-67 lead with about 6:00 remaining.

With many of UNA’s regulars struggling to find the net, backup sophomore guard Tavaras Tolliver led the Lions with 15 points and five assists.

As for West Florida, the Lions started hot, but immediately fell in a rut by ending the first half on the wrong end of a 28-9 run. West Florida would not look back, earning its first GSC win of the season, 100-81.

After managing a season-low seven points against VSU, leading scorer Dimario Jackson led the team with 19 points against the Argos. The senior guard was followed by another scoring performance from Tolliver, tossing in 17 points. Tolliver went 4-11 from the field, but made 9 of 13 from the free throw line.

Senior forward Austin Timms, who grabbed 13 rebounds to go along with eight points against West Florida, said he still believes UNA is a top contender.

“I’m going to say the same thing I said before the season started. I think we’re the best team in the conference, and if not, we’re up there with the best teams,” Timms said. “We can beat anyone, but it’s the same for everyone. Any team can beat any team. That’s how good our conference is.”

Despite the two road losses, UNA held leads in both games but could not manage to hold on due to cold streaks.

“One thing we’ve struggled with is consistency,” Timms said. “We’re a little streaky and are up and down the whole game. We have to find that place to where we’re consistent and playing our best basketball.”

While a 1-4 start to the conference season sparks concern, Champagne said the slow start is not the end of the world.

“Things can definitely get turned around,” he said. “There’s so little margin between teams. It can turn around quickly, but for it to turn around you have to do something about it. We have to work a little bit harder and pay a little closer attention to detail.”

The Lions return to Flowers Hall Jan. 7, where they will host Christian Brothers. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. and will immediate follow the women’s game at 1 p.m.

The Bucs lead the conference with a 5-1 record, but picked up its first GSC loss against Delta State in a 65-64 loss Jan. 2.

The Lions will then host Union Jan. 9, who is 3-3 in conference play.

“This league is unforgiving because it doesn’t give you an opportunity to get right,” Champagne said. “You would hope somewhere, somebody in the league is not playing good, doesn’t have good players, is poorly coach and never prepares, but that’s not the case in this league. Everybody has good players and good coaches, so you don’t have time to have those ‘gimme games.’”