JACKSON, Tenn. — Union apparently did not get the memo that it was in last place in the Gulf South Conference standings and was just playing out the season against No. 24 North Alabama on Saturday.
The Lions appeared to have the Bulldogs put away several times only to see them get back in it with one clutch shot after another. That, along with two crucial UNA turnovers in the final seconds, helped Union pull out a thrilling 101-99 overtime victory over the Lions.
The loss put UNA (17-5, 10-4 GSC) a game and a half behind UAH in the Gulf South Conference standings.
Pedro Faller scored on a putback with 7.2 seconds remaining to give Union (6-16, 4-10) a 100-99 lead. The Lions (17-5, 10-4) then turned the ball over on the inbounds pass and Corieon Pearson made 1 of 2 free throws with 4.1 seconds left. UNA got the rebound after the second free throw missed, but was unable to get off a shot before the buzzer.
“Give Union credit because they made shots and never quit,” coach Bobby Champagne said. “We made some big plays and they just refused to give up. It was a really good college basketball game but it’s disappointing for us.”
UNA appeared to have wrapped up the win in regulation when Rashaun Claiborne hit two free throws to put the Lions up 86-83 with 10.2 seconds to play. Pearson then made a trey from the corner to tie it at 86 and Claiborne’s shot at the buzzer bounced off the side of the rim, sending the teams to overtime.
“I put it on myself for the game going to overtime,” junior guard Marquel Darrington said. “I missed my assignment and then jumped at him and he faked the shot and then hit the 3-pointer. Give them credit for making some big shots.”
The two teams put on a shooting exhibition. UNA shot 51.5 percent for the game, while Union shot 54.4 percent. The Bulldogs hit 13 of 24 shots (54.2 percent) from beyond the arc.
“When you shoot more than 50 percent and lose it’s not about scoring,” Champagne said. “Neither team was able to put together any stops. The team with the ball last usually wins a game like that, and they did.”
UNA got a trey from Nathan Spehr and back-to-back baskets from Darrington to take a 93-90 lead in overtime. After a Union basket, Wes Long banked in a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 96-92.
The Bulldogs responded with a trey from Dani Marti to pull within one. Darrington then made two free throws and Bruce Adams made a steal and converted 1 of 2 free throws to extend UNA’s lead to 99-95 with 38 seconds to play.
“There were just no stops on defense,” Darrington said. “We were just trading baskets. It was like the first one to 100 wins.”
Roy Bullock hit a 3-pointer to pull the Bulldogs within one with 27.7 seconds left. UNA then turned the ball over on the inbounds play and Faller rebounded his own missed shot and laid it in to give Union the lead. The Lions then turned the ball over again on the inbounds play.
“We didn’t execute on the inbounds plays, and that’s on me,” Champagne said. “I didn’t do a good job emphasizing what we were doing.”
Darrington led UNA with 26 points, followed by DeAndre Hersey with 22, Adams with 19 and Spehr with 13. Marti paced Union with 23 points and Bullock scored 22.
UNA will play at Shorter on Thursday.
“It’s the GSC, and everybody is tough at home,” Darrington said. “Now we have to bounce back because we haven’t lost two in a row all year.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.