Team benefits from playing Auburn in exhibition

The men’s basketball team was able to take a break from conference play to attempt their best shot at imitating David and slaying the giant, as UNA took on Auburn University Jan. 3.

The Lions battled hard and led for most of the first half before falling to the Tigers 82-61. The halftime score was 32-30 in Auburn’s favor as UNA held the Tigers to just 35 percent shooting from the floor in the first 20 minutes.

“We showed that a D-II school can compete with a D-I school,” said senior forward Marcus Landry. “Even though we only had nine players and they had at least 15, it showed how much heart and drive we have. We are not afraid of the big stage either.”

In the second half, Auburn was able to utilize its depth to its advantage as they scored 50 points after intermission.

Landry finished the game with 12 points before fouling out. Senior guard Nathan Spehr scored 17 points and added four assists for the Lions.

“We were down 10 with four minute media timeout and I would take that pretty much anywhere,” said head coach Bobby Champagne. “We weren’t shooting great but we were right there. If we finish out the game playing like we did the first 36 minutes we probably don’t win but we do give ourselves a chance.”

Landry said the team did look better against Auburn but there were still things the team needed to work on.

“I think our motion offense is coming along but we still need to work on our defense,” he said.

The game was an exhibition for UNA but was a regular season game for Auburn.

“It helps to have an exhibition game to get our legs back under us after being off for seven or eight days,” Champagne said.

Champagne said the biggest benefits of playing Auburn were the exposure and the competition.

“Anytime you can get some exposure it helps,” he said. “We were able to be on the SEC Network, so it was nice to be on a big stage.”

Champagne said he hopes to keep playing games against D-I opponent’s in state.

“For kids that grow up in Alabama watching Alabama and Auburn basketball and then get a chance to play them is a pretty good deal,” he said. “Some people will say it wasn’t to smart on our part to play this game because we have 10 conference games in January. I think the recognition and the exposure outweighs the 40 minutes of exhaustion and four-hour bus ride. The payout helps as well.”

Athletics Director Mark Linder said the pay UNA received for the Auburn game was around $25,000.

Because of the matchup against Auburn, UNA had to reschedule the home game against Delta State University to Jan. 7, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 3.