Men’s basketball defeats Saint Leo in OT thriller

North Alabama sophomore guard Tavaras Tolliver looks to pass the ball on the perimeter in the Lions’ game against Saint Leo. UNA trailed by six points with under four minutes remaining in regulation, but surged back to force overtime and win the game 101-96.

by Managing Editor Mike Ezekiel

Trailing 84-76 with 2:41 to go in regulation against Saint Leo, the North Alabama men’s basketball team needed a quick run and found one.

Three defensive stops, coupled with a Dimarrio Jackson three pointer and four points from Damien Ottman, tied the game at 84. In overtime, each team went on separate 8-0 runs to re-tie the game at 96.

It was UNA who would come out on top in the final 30 seconds, taking a 101-96 victory Nov. 13 in Flowers Hall.

“The shots are one thing, but the defense contesting a shot and limiting them to one shot is what was huge,” said UNA coach Bobby Champagne.

The Saint Leo Lions led most of the way with eight points being the largest lead, but UNA hung around with good efforts off the bench. The team finished with 36 bench points to Saint Leo’s 16.

“Our bench today really came through for us,” said senior forward Austin Timms. “Speaking for myself, I had two fouls in the first half and had to sit out a lot of it. We had guys come off and contribute with big plays and big stops.”

Jackson led UNA with 21 points, six assists and three steals. Junior guards Jeff Hodge and Johnell Ginnie had 19 and 12 points, respectively. Ottman had 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Hodge and Jackson had the task of slowing down the pre-season All-American Marcus Dewberry, who averages nearly 30 points for his career. Dewberry scored 35 in the losing effort.

“That was a good team we just played, and (Dewberry) is a good player,” Jackson said. “Him and Phil Taylor (from Shorter) are two of the best guards I’ve ever played against.”

The hometown Lions will remain in Flowers Hall for two games this week, as the men and women each host Oakwood Nov. 17, and then the men face Cumberland Nov. 19.