FLORENCE — Back-to-back losses have made winning the Gulf South Conference regular season title extremely difficult for the North Alabama men.
The Lions (17-6, 10-5 GSC) dropped to third place in the conference standings with Thursday’s 77-64 loss at Shorter. UNA trails Alabama-Huntsville (20-4, 13-3) by two and a half games entering today’s showdown with the Chargers. Christian Brothers (16-7, 11-4), meanwhile moved into sole possession of second place, a game ahead of the Lions.
For UNA to finish first it must beat UAH today and win its final two games next week and have the Chargers lose their final game. Finishing second will also be tough because Christian Brothers swept UNA, giving the Buccaneers the tie-breaker advantage.
“We need to put ourselves in the best position we can to finish first or second,” coach Bobby Champagne said. “The only way to do that is to beat UAH.”
The Lions are going for a sweep in the season series today. UNA rallied for an 81-71 victory over the Chargers in Huntsville on Jan. 19. UNA’s victory broke a seven-game losing streak in the series.
While the rivalry between the two neighboring schools has intensified in recent years, Champagne said he tries to treat it like any other game.
“Their students really get behind them and it creates a great atmosphere for the games,” he said. “Our fans have got into it as well, and we should have a great environment to play in once again.
“It is a good rivalry but I don’t enjoy beating UAH more than any other team in our league, nor do I hate losing to them less than anybody else.”
Like the men’s team, the UNA women are looking to end a two-game losing skid today against UAH (11-15, 8-8). The Lions (16-9, 9-6) dropped into a tie for third place in the conference standing after Thursday’s 53-47 loss at Shorter.
UNA has struggled offensively in recent games as teams sag their defense to stop the Lions’ inside game. UNA has made just 2 of 19 shots from beyond the 3-point arc in its past three games.
“Teams have adjusted to what we do and we have to adjust as well,” Fowler said. “We have to be able to hit some perimeter shots to loosen things up inside.”
The Lions beat UAH 81-69 in the first meeting. It was the third consecutive win in Huntsville for the Lions.
“To me a rivalry really starts when teams can win on the other team’s home floor,” Fowler said. “We’ve had some success at their place and they have beaten us on our home court.
“This game means a lot to everyone. Our former players talk to the girls or text them to remind them what’s at stake in this game. We need to get back on track and play well in these next three games.”