Great basketball

The many UNA fans that made the trip to Huntsville for Saturday’s basketball doubleheader with Alabama-Huntsville were rewarded with two great games. The UNA men rallied to beat No. 9 UAH 81-71, while the Lion women pulled away late for an 81-69 victory over the Chargers.

I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed two basketball games more. The atmosphere at Spragins Hall was absolutely electric. This is what college basketball is supposed to be. This is now officially UNA’s best rivalry.

The UNA men looked as if they would get blown out as the Chargers came out hot, knocking down one 3-pointer after another. Somehow, the Lions managed to stay in the game and trim the lead to six at halftime. UNA made a game of it midway through the second half and then finished strong to pull off an incredible win.

There were many heroes for the Lions. Corey Ricks scored 11 points in the first half, including a three-point play at the buzzer that keep UNA within striking distance. Freshman Jere Vucica made several huge plays in the second half, including a basket that gave UNA its first lead. Rashaun Claiborne seemed to rediscover his shooting touch in the second half, scoring 16 of his game-high 19 points in the final 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the UNA women’s game was another great win. The women have now won five straight times in Huntsville. The game went back and forth all night and UNA was able to hang tough and then use a late surrge to hand the Chargers their first home loss of the season. The win kep the Lions in the thick of the race in the Gulf South Conference.

The UNA fans lined the hallway after the men’s game, cheering the players and coaches as they left the arena. It was an impressive site and you could tell it meant a┬álot to the Lions. Champagne was very appreciative of the support and said for some reason the UNA fans seem louder in Huntsville. That is true because they have to be since they are outnumbered 10 to 1 by UAH fans. Again, it was just a great atmosphere for college basketball. It doesn’t get any better at the Division II level.

Now the Lions face another tough road trip at West Georgia on Thursday. UNA wraps up the first half of GSC play at home Saturday against West Alabama. It would be great to see all those fans and many more at Flowers Hall on Saturday.

Go ahead and mark your calendars for Saturday, Feb. 23. That’s when UAH comes to Florence for the rematch. You can be sure that UAH will bring a great crowd and UNA needs to get a boost from its home crowd. There is no reason why this game should not be the first sellout in many years at UNA. A lot can change between now and then, but that game could go a long way toward deciding the GSC championship.

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