FLORENCE — One week after rallying for a dramatic win at Delta State the North Alabama women were at it again Saturday against Union.
The Lions trailed by 13 early in the second half before making a game of it in the final minutes. This time, however, the rally fell short as Union escaped with a 54-49 victory over UNA.
It was the first conference loss for the Lions (11-4, 4-1 GSC), who entered the day alone in first place in the Gulf South conference standings.
“We were not sharp all week in practice and it carried over into the game,” coach Terry Fowler said. “We were tentative all day offensively and that goes back to practice.”
UNA struggled all afternoon against Union’s sagging man-to-man defense. The Lions shot just 32.6 percent from the field and committed 23 turnovers.
“We saw what they were doing defensively but we never made the next play to beat it,” Fowler said. “Our offense became stagnant and we just had no movement.
“But at the end of the day the 23 turnovers were the story. They got 10 more shots than we did because we turned it over, and several of those turnovers gave them easy shots.”
The Lions led 24-21 at halftime but gave up two quick 3-pointers off of offensive rebounds to start the second half as Union (9-4, 4-1) took a 29-24 lead.
Forwards Mekena Randle and Nichelle Fillmore each picked up their third foul in the first four minutes of the half and went to the bench. With its two leading scorers out of the game the Lions struggled and Union extended its lead to 42-29.
“Our post players never got into a rhythm because of the foul trouble,” Fowler said. “That lull to start the second half really hurt us.”
UNA tried to rally late. Randle scored four points in a 6-0 run that trimmed Union’s lead to 46-42 with 4:06 to play. Two free throws by Lauren Faris and a putback by Randle pulled the Lions within two at 48-46 with 2:08 remaining.
Union’s LaTesa McLaughlin then scored on a layup to push the lead to 50-46.The Lions missed shots on their next two possessions and two free throws by Union made it 52-46 with 20.4 seconds left.
Jennifer Towne hit a 3-pointer for UNA to make it 52-49, but a free throw by Shelby Ashcraft sealed the win for the Bulldogs.
Randle led UNA with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Astrid Huttemann had 17 points for Union.
“We’ve got to start putting 40 minutes together and not have these lulls,” Fowler said. “But this is a very mature group and I know they will bounce back.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.