UAH escapes West Alabama with close victory

Published 9:25 am Monday, February 4, 2013

LIVINGSTON – Jaime Smith made clutch free throws and a key steal in the last 9.1 seconds to help 11th ranked Alabama-Huntsville escape with a 57-54 Gulf South Conference men’s basketball victory over West Alabama Saturday at Pruitt Hall.

With the score tied at 54 and 9.1 seconds left to play, Smith made one of two free throws and then stole the UWA inbounds pass, was immediately fouled, and then iced the game away with a pair of free throws. A last-second three pointer for UWA fell short as time expired.

The win improved UAH to 16-3 overall and a league-leading 9-2 in the conference. West Alabama fell to 7-11 and 3-8.

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The Chargers led by as many as 11 points early in the second half before UWA came roaring back. Back-to-back breakaway dunks by Joshua Millsap and Steven Samuels closed the Tigers to within 47-45 with 4:44 to play.

The game was tied twice in the final 2:42, with the teams trading the lead twice in the last 1:59 on a three pointer by Samuels and clutch free throw shooting by Smith. Those were the only two times the lead changed hands during the course of the game.

“It’s the story of our life this year,” UWA head coach Mike Newell said. “Critical mistakes and 18 turnovers in a close game against a good basketball team are hard to overcome.

The Tigers struggled from the floor in the first half, making just 5-of-24 shots, allowing UAH to run out to a 29-17 lead. UWA won the rebounding battle 46-34 and limited the top three-point shooting team in the GSC to just 6-of-29 (20%) for the game.

“We did a great job defensively. We forced it a little too much early and didn’t let the game come to us,” Newell said. “In the second half we started to score the basketball and we had a chance there at the end.”

Samuels recorded his fourth double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. He was the only West Alabama player to score in double figures. Millsap collected eight rebounds.

Smith scored 18 points to lead UAH. Ronnie Mack followed with 16.

West Alabama does not play again until Saturday when the Tigers travel to West Georgia.