Men’s basketball splits opening games

The Lions started their season with a test against SEC member South Carolina. The team was led by newcomer C.J. Brim , who was the lone Lion to score in double figures during the game. They returned home to Flowers Hall to play Carver College on Nov. 10.

During the first two games of the season for the North Alabama men’s basketball team, a more experienced look has been the key driving the Lions to a 1-1 start.

The Lions brought back key returning players including ASUN Freshman of the Year Jamari Blackmon, Christian Agnew and Emanuel Littles. Other returns like Tavon King, Logan Windler, Aleksa Matic, Cameron Diggs and a healthy Payton Youngblood.

The newcomers being C.J Brim, Holden Redparth, Mervin James, James Anderson, Austin Meloche, and Abdul Ahmad round out a deeper Lions roster.

The Lions realized in the early weeks before the season started that with a full year under their belt in Division I that the competition would be more aware of who they are and what they could bring to the table.

“I think it will be more differnt but it won’t be difficult,” said Agnew. “Teams will be aware of us but we will still do the things we have to do to win a game. But it’s certainly going to be different.”

To start the season, the Lions played their first ever matchup against an SEC opponent in South Carolina. The Lions did everything they could to come close to an upset bid and even cut the lead down to four points early in the second half.

The difference in the 77-55 loss came within the ability for the Lions to knock down enough shots . They shot a combined 15-6( 24.6%) from the field and 2-21( 9.5%) from deep compared to South Carolina’s near 50% field goal performance. C.J Brim was the lone Lion to reach double figures as he scored a team-high 12 points.

Second-year head coach Tony Pujol realized during the game that the offense had to adjust to how South Carolina played the Lions and was openly honest in how they adjusted.

“From an offensive standpoint, I think it took a toll on our guys. Some guys responded and some didn’t,” Pujol said. “There is a reason why we have this game scheduled. Our guys need to understand that this is a physical game. It’s not chess. Today (Nov.6), some of these guys told on themselves. Good players want to be told the truth, and these guys are going to hear the truth from me once I have watched film.”

The team returned to Flowers Hall on Sunday, November 10 for their first home matchup. Being able to be back home in Flowers allowed the Lions to fully show their depth and last year’s leading scorer and leader in minutes played Jamari Blackmon was glad that there would be no let up when non-starters checked in.

“ When a guy gets tired we can turn to a fresh guy off the bench,”said Blackmon. “The energy just doesn’t stop and it keeps going up.”

In the Lions 95-64 win against Carver College, six lions scored in double figures and every player for the team touched the floor.

The Lions were led by key role players Mervin James, who scored 14 points on an efficient 7-9 from the field , and Payton Youngblood’s 14 points, who did most of his scoring on a 3-4 performance from three-point land.

The Lions scored 40 points off turnovers and played stellar defense the majority of the night.

Playing hard defensively was an area that coach Pujol hoped would be a strong area for the Lions all season.

“The staple of this program is always going to be on the defensive end, and I wanted to see that today,” Pujol said. “We saw it in spurts. There are some things we need to clean up, but for the most part I was really proud that we were plus nine on the boards and forced 27 turnovers.”

The Lions will now look forward to a new challenge. They will play Big Ten member Indiana at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.