Following a close win against West Georgia on Jan. 17, the men’s basketball team geared up to compete against Delta State and Mississippi College on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24.
On Thursday, Jan. 22, the Tigers prove they were the better team with great performances by the Tigers’ reserves. Senior Demetrius Powe, freshman Khalil Carter, and junior Charles Eaton all came off the bench to outplay the Delta Statesmen 31 in a 72-65 Gulf South Conference win.
Although the Tigers displayed five different lead changes in the first half, the game was at a draw27-27 draw at halftime. However, after the half, the Tigers never let the Statesmen take the lead in the second half.
The Tigers held DSC to 10 points for 13 trips to the line and hit 26 for 32 in the first half and 21 for 24 in the second half.
Head coach Allen Sharpe commented, “We wanted to make an effort tonight not to foul and be on the attack to draw their fouls. We did a good job driving to the free throw line and making them.”
Junior Charles Eaton, UWA’s main free throw threat, finished 9 for 10 at the line and 6 for 12 from the field to rack up a total of 22 total points. Eaton now supports an 82 shooting percentage for a combined 233 points for this season.
“[Eaton] can really get you out of a jam,” said Sharpe. “He can make something out of nothing when we need it, and he can really make me look like a good coach.”
Junior Kenric McCants led the starting five with 10 points with 5 for 6 on the line. McCants finished the game with four assists, which was followed by senior Jarell Byrd’s three assists.
In addition, graduate student Justin Wright and junior Dakari Mayo were the leading rebounders with seven rebounds apiece. Byrd led UWA’s defense with three blocks, followed by Mayo with two of his own.
Overall, UWA finished with 22 for 51 from the court while Delta hit 24 for 52.
Sharpe concluded the game with some light on how the Tigers can secure their next home victory: “We just have to stay with what we’re doing. Our defense has come light-years since the first time we played Delta State. As a result, our defense is better. The best defense is a good offense.”
The Tigers will wrap up at home on Saturday, Jan. 24, against the Mississippi Choctaws at 7:30 p.m. in Pruitt Hall.
On Jan. 24, Sharpe’s belief about the Tigers’ defense proved to be the winning factor of the game.
The Tigers defense allowed only five three-pointers and 19 points in the first half to prevent the Choctaws from ever taking the lead, and to secure a Gulf South Conference win. This victory not only adds to the Tigers overall GSC but adds to the Tigers nineteenth straight home victory. The Tigers have not lost at home since May 2, 2013.
Additionally, after the physical victory, the Tigers improve to 14-7 overall and 9-4 in GSC, which places UWA in first, tied with West Georgia, Alabama Huntsville, and Shorter.
Right from the beginning, the Tigers hit 12 for 28 from the field and 4 for 8 for three-pointers in the first half, while the Choctaws held only 5 of 21, taking the lead 31-19 at the half.
Even with an improved shot attempts in the second half, MC couldn’t keep pace with the Tigers’ 78 percent shooting.
The Tigers held their lead with 21 for 24 free throws in the second half, led by UWA’s own Charles Eaton. Junior Eaton, having come off the bench, finished 19 for 10 at the line and led the Tigers in scoring for the fifth consecutive game with 18 points. Eaton’s spectacular performance of aggressiveness and challenging plays led the Tigers to the 74-58 victory over the Choctaws.
“Our scoring has been pretty balanced. We don’t have one guy averaging 20 points per game,” commented head coach Allen Sharpe.
“That is our advantage. Our opponents can’t key in one or two guys to stop us. Our first half defense is what really won this game. For whatever reason, we weren’t able to hold them the same in the second half, but we still did enough to win the game. We were disappointed in our free throw attempts in the first half. We emphasize driving the ball so that we draw the fouls and get to the line.”
In addition, graduate student Justin Wright and junior Kenric McCants finished with a combined 22 points from the line, extending the Tigers’ lead. Though they weren’t completely satisfied with their performance at the line, they were still able to pull out a win.
Likewise, junior Deontaye Ewing and senior Jarell Byrd each contributed to the victory by both posting double figures. Ewing posted 13 points, while Byrd held 10 of his own. Both men scored seven points in the first half.
On the other side, junior Dakari Mayo matched his season high of blocks with five of the Tigers’ six blocks.
The Tigers now prep for the road as they travel to face state rival North Alabama on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m.
“We love playing at home and we’ve had a lot of success here, but we are looking forward to getting back on the road,” said Sharpe.