JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (February 10, 2024) – A five-game winning streak came to an end for the University of North Alabama men’s basketball team at Jacksonville on Saturday, as the Dolphins pulled out a tight 67-63 victory over the Lions in Swisher Gymnasium.
Saturday’s task was not an easy one for the Lions, as Jacksonville entered with a 9-1 record at home despite being near the bottom of the Atlantic Sun Conference standings. The Lions, who had won five straight entering Saturday with two of those five on the road, were unable to overcome a late surge in the final 10 minutes of play.
With the loss, UNA drops to 6-5 in ASUN play, while Jacksonville moves back into the mix with a 4-7 record. With five games remaining, both teams remain in play for a spot in the 2024 ASUN Championship Tournament.
Tied at the half, North Alabama came out the aggressors, shooting 4-4 behind the arc to open the second frame. This gave UNA a 45-35 lead at the first media timeout, but Jacksonville went on a run of its own thanks to good defense and rebounding to tie the game back at 47-47. The Dolphins got ahead after that and maintained a one or two possession lead the rest of the way to end UNA’s win streak.
In the last three road games, UNA has played Kennesaw State, North Florida and Jacksonville. Those three teams combined for a 27-3 record before playing UNA, including a combined 20-game win streak. The Lions were able to win two of the three, ending an 11-game streak for KSU and a seven-game streak for North Florida.
Senior KJ Johnson led the way with 18 points, including a 12-16 showing at the line. Sophomore Jacari Lane, junior Will Soucie and graduate Tim Smith Jr. each had nine points, while junior Dallas Howell added eight. Senior Eoin Nelson came off the bench and added six points over six minutes.
Jacksonville was led by Bryce Workman and Stephon Payne III with a pair of double-doubles, while Robert McCray matched Johnson with a game-high 18 points.
HOW IT HAPPENED
First Half: For the first time all season, UNA ended the first half in a tie. Both teams shot between 35-40 percent with 11 field goals en route to a 31-31 tie at the break. The Lions led for most of the first half with nearly 12 minutes ahead, but Jacksonville surged back late to take a 26-23 lead with 5:43 to go. At this point, UNA went on a 6-0 run with two layups from Johnson. Howell ended the half with a basket to tie the game.
Second Half: The Lions opened on fire in the second half with four straight threes, taking their first double-digit lead of the game. Soucie hit three of the four triples in this run, making it 45-35. Jacksonville came back with a 12-2 run to tie it at 47-47, then Gyasi Powell drained the go-ahead three with 9:43 to go to take the lead. UNA stayed within six the rest of the way despite running into foul trouble with Soucie, Smith Jr. and Damian Forrest, pulling within two at the final minute, but Jacksonville retained the lead with timely plays.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• UNA shot 19-51 for 37.3 percent, while going 7-19 for 36.8 percent behind the arc.
• Jacksonville went 22-61 for 36.1 percent, while going just 3-21 from downtown for 14.3 percent.
• Though UNA made up a lot of difference on three-point shooting, Jacksonville won the boards with a 45-26 advantage and had 21 second-chance points. UNA had 11.
• There were seven lead changes and eight ties on Saturday.
COMING UP NEXT
UNA returns home to CB&S Bank Arena next week with games against Lipscomb on Thursday at 7:45 p.m. and Austin Peay on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. Saturday’s game is senior night, as the Lions will honor Johnson, Nelson, Forrest and Smith Jr.