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UWA defeats UNA to secure second seed in GSC tourney

In a game that featured 20 lead changes and 11 ties, West Alabama defeated North Alabama 88-82 in Gulf South Conference action Thursday in a packed out Pruitt Hall.

The victory secures the Tigers as the No. 2 seed in the GSC tournament and improved them to 16-9 overall, 13-6 in conference. UWA now owns its most single season wins since the 1998. UNA fell to 18-9 and 12-7.

“It was a very inconsistent and physical battle,” said UWA head coach Mark Downey.

“We had a great collective effort by different people. It was a great gutty effort from our guys. We changed our defense enough tonight to keep them off balance; the first time we’ve been able to do that all year. We had a phenomenal crowd here tonight. I’ve had many people tell me they have not seen it like this in a while. I am proud of that and hope we can bring it back on Saturday.”

The Tigers shot 20-of-28 from the free-throw line to outscore the Lions 49-44 in the second half. Both teams’ committed 14 turnovers, however, UWA turned the UNA mistakes into 21 points in the second half. The Tigers led 23-10 overall in points off turnovers.

Sandy Underwood led UWA with 28 points, shooting 15-of-17 from the free-throw line. Desmond Raymond posted 24 points, followed by Jarell Byrd with 16 and Jared Woolfolk with 11. Byrd led with nine rebounds as well as three steals.

Rashburn Claiborne and Calvin Dade each tallied 20 points to lead the Lions, while Bruce Adams followed with 17.

West Alabama will wrap up its regular season at home against Union on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. It will be senior night as the Tigers will honor their six seniors prior to the game. The game can be heard on ESPN 104.9 and ESPN1049.com.

“We still have a five game season ahead of us,” said Downey. “If we can do well enough in those five games, then we will have another five game season after the conference tournament.”