Lions extend win streak against Shorter

Freshman Tavaras Tolliver leans in for a layup against Shorter Dec. 19. The Lions defeated Shorter 80-78 on a missed buzzer-beater to close out December.

Close games in Flowers Hall are becoming a common occurrence for the UNA men’s basketball team.

The Lions (7-5, 4-2) are on a four-game winning streak after dropping their first two conference games. UNA defeated Shorter (5-6, 1-5) 80-78 Saturday.

Senior John Fletcher sped past the defense and hit the go-ahead layup with three seconds to go. After a Shorter timeout, the Hawks failed to hit a buzzer beater, locking up the UNA win.

“When John (Fletcher) took it to the basket, their defense wasn’t set,” said UNA coach Bobby Champagne. “(Shorter) is a tough bunch to guard. They have guys that can get to the basket. They are small, but they did a good job defensively.”

Out of the four home games in the December stretch, this game saw the most lead changes with 23. The final lead change was the decisive one, as Fletcher’s layup propelled the Lions to victory.

“Everyone just got out of my way, and Bilal (Richardson) set a good screen for me,” Fletcher said. “They’re a good transition team, so I knew I had to get right back on defense. It feels good to get four wins in a row.”

Fletcher led the Lions with 19 points and three steals. Senior forward Bilal Richardson added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman guard Tavaras Tolliver contributed 14 points off the bench, including 12 in the first half.

“We fought hard today and had a great effort,” Tolliver said. “We knew at halftime we needed to bring the energy, and I feel like we did that. Four in a row feels good. We’re going to get ready for next year (2016) and start it off right.”

The Lions take a Mississippi road trip beginning Jan. 2 as they take on Delta State. Following the Statesmen, UNA travels to Mississippi College Jan. 4.

“We’ve played well at home these last four games and got four wins,” Champagne said. “There are only a couple of teams that have one four in a row in this league. I’m happy we can keep pace with the league leaders.”