FLORENCE — A 25-point victory was not enough to make North Alabama coach Bobby Champagne happy Monday night.
After watching his team claim a sloppy 92-67 victory in its season opener against Fisk, Champagne found few positives from the performance.
“I was pleased with our improvement from the first scrimmage to our first exhibition game and then to the second exhibition game,” Champagne said. “But I feel like we took a step backwards tonight. We’re going to really have to improve our execution and effort to compete in the Gulf South Conference.”
UNA’s newcomers all had their moments in their first game with the Lions. Senior center DeAndre Hersey led the Lions with 20 points off the bench, while junior guard Rashaun Claiborne had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“Almost our whole team is new, and I love working with these guys,” said Hersey, who transferred from South Alabama. “It feels great to get our first win, but we knew we have to keep working and try to get better every day.”
UNA dominated Fisk on the boards, finishing with a 57-39 rebounding advantage. The Lions had 25 offense rebounds to just 11 for the Bulldogs (1-3).
The Lions shot 42 percent from the field, but hit just 7 of 25 shots (28 percent) from beyond the arc.
“We can’t shoot that many 3-pointers and be successful in the GSC,” Champagne said. “It’s OK to shoot that many if they come from running your offense. Most of the ones we shot tonight we were not in our offense and that’s why the percentage was so low.”
UNA used a 9-0 run late in the first half to take the lead for good. Bruce Adams had two free throws and scored on a putback to put the Lions up 36-25. Nathan Spehr and Lonnie Smith later hit back-to-back treys to push the lead to 42-27. The Lions led 43-33 at halftime.
Hersey sparked the Lions in the second half. He had 10 points in just more than six minutes as UNA extended its lead to 67-48.
“We scored a lot of points, but we could have done better on the defensive end,” Hersey said. “Rebounding was a problem for us in the exhibition games and we did a better job tonight.”
Adams finished with 14 points for the Lions. Corey Ricks came off the bench to score 10 points in the final five minutes and finished with 11.
“We had some guys do some good things,” Champagne said. “Corey got an opportunity late and took advantage of it. He came in and played with confidence, which was good to see.
“It was nice to see DeAndre get in the post and score. I thought K.J. (Jackson) did a good job pushing the ball in the second half. But we still have guys that have not accepted their role and others that have not figured out their role.”
UNA will play Friday against Morehouse in the GSC/SIAC Challenge in Carrollton, Ga.
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.