For the first time this season, North Alabama’s women’s basketball team is in a bit of a funk.
For the first time all season, the Lions aren’t in first place in the Gulf South Conference, either. Instead, a 61-60 home loss to GSC newcomer Shorter on Thursday dropped the Lions a game behind Union in the league standings.
It was a disappointing second consecutive loss for Terry Fowler’s team, which battled from a 14-point halftime deficit but missed a layup at the buzzer that would have salvaged the win. What made it tougher for Fowler to stomach was that Shorter came to Flowers Hall and walked away with the win. UNA’s second straight loss was also a second straight home loss. Now, he said, the Lions have to go on the road to steal a few wins to make up for the home losses.
That’s not an impossible task. There’s plenty of balance in the GSC, and UNA already has proved it can win on the road. But recently, the Lions have gotten into a disturbing trend of falling behind by a large margin before rallying down the stretch.
UNA came from 24 down for an improbable win at Delta State. Last Saturday, it faced a 13-point hole in the second half against Union, a game the Lions eventually lost.
Thursday night, it was a 17-point deficit with 15 minutes to play before Fowler’s team responded. That’s a recipe for disaster for any team.
Thursday’s loss provided another “teachable” moment for Fowler. All he has to do is get his team to recognize that better effort in the first half would create a more stress-free environment in the second. The difference between the first half, where Shorter scorched the Lions with 59 percent shooting and the second, when the Hawks shot just 30 percent, simply was a matter of effort.
“At halftime, we told them, ‘Do your job. And if you’re not going to do your job, we’re going to take you out and don’t expect to play,” Fowler said of the turnaround. “We weren’t running the floor. We weren’t executing. That was the disappointing thing.”
In the first half, Shorter was quicker to get to the loose balls and quicker to the boards for rebounds. That, Fowler said, hasn’t been the case in other games.
“That’s kind of been our thing,” he said. “We talk about making championship plays, and they made more championship plays than we did. We don’t talk much about winning plays because that just gets you by by a little bit. Those are the plays that separate you.”
Still, there’s a lot to like about this UNA women’s team with still two-thirds of the conference schedule to play. First-place Union is not eligible for the conference tournament and it doesn’t appear any team is going to run away and hide from the rest of the league.
If Fowler can just get 40 minutes of consistent effort from the Lions, they should be just fine.
Contact Gregg Dewalt at 256-740-5748 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @greggdewalt on Twitter.