Lions victorious in high-scoring rivalry game

Junior guard Jeff Hodge draws contact during a shot against Alabama-Huntsville Jan. 16. The Lions defeated their rival in a high-scoring 119-103 shootout.

It was not the type of game UNA coach Bobby Champagne expected, but it was certainly a welcomed outcome.

The UNA men’s basketball team (10-7, 7-4 Gulf South Conference) scored early and often on its way to a 119-103 victory over rival Alabama-Huntsville (11-5, 8-3 GSC) in Flowers Hall Saturday. Although many anticipated a close game, UNA led by as many 22 points before sealing the win.

“You never expect (a blowout) in this game,” Champagne said. “You expect both teams to play well and play with some energy. That’s what this rivalry is all about. It was a lot of fun. To be up 22 points with four minutes to go, I didn’t expect that.”

The Lions finished with high shooting percentages in the win, including 52 percent from behind the arc (15-29) and 80 percent from the free throw line (32-40).

“Honestly, our emphasis before the game was to not shoot so many threes because we didn’t shoot that well against Union,” Champagne said. “We just played really well offensively for a large part of the game.”

Guards John Fletcher and Dimario Jackson led the way with two stellar performances for UNA, as Fletcher finished with 32 points and Jackson added 29. Fletcher went 13-13 from the charity stripe, while Jackson finished 5-7 from behind the arc.

“I think we came out in warm-ups well and showed great intensity on and off the floor,” Fletcher said. “That intensity led to us playing defense and hitting our shots.”

Nine of UNA’s 10 players registering minutes in the game had at least six individual points. The UNA bench combined for 32 total points, as freshman guard Tavaras Tolliver’s 11 points led the bench.

“We just threw the ball up, and it seemed to go in,” said junior forward Austin Timms, who finished with 11 points. “Both teams shot the ball extremely well, so give (UAH) credit. This was a big win.”

The Lions, who are 5-0 in home conference games, will host West Florida Jan. 21, followed by Valdosta State Jan. 23.