CLEVELAND, Miss. — North Alabama coach Bobby Champagne called for some of his upperclassmen to step up after Thursday’s loss at Christian Brothers.
Senior center DeAndre Hersey apparently got the message.
Hersey dominated the paint against Delta State, finishing with a career-high 26 points in UNA’s 69-53 victory over the Statesmen.
The win gave UNA (10-2, 3-1 GSC) a split of its two-game road trip and kept the Lions near the top of the Gulf South Conference standings.
“None of us upperclassmen stepped up against Christian Brothers, so we had to get it together today,” Hersey said. “The coaches told me to score when I got the ball inside and that’s what I tried to do. Getting this win on the road is big for us.”
Hersey hit 9 of 12 shots from the field and was 8 of 10 at the free-throw line. He also led UNA with seven rebounds.
“DeAndre did a great job today,” coach Bobby Champagne said. “He didn’t play well against Christian Brothers and he’ll be the first to admit it. But he came to play today and did a lot of good things.”
As a team, UNA shot 50 percent from the field. Delta State (4-7, 0-3) held a 42-28 advantage on the boards, but the Lions forced 14 turnovers while committing just eight.
The Lions held Delta State forward Terry Leake, the conference’s leading scorer, to eight points – 13 points below his average.
After scoring just 12 points in the first half against Christian Brothers on Thursday, UNA came on hot against the Statesmen. Bruce Adams hit two early treys and Wes Long nailed another as the Lions opened up a 12-0 lead.
“We came out slow the other night and it cost us,” Hersey said. “Today we came out with a lot of energy and it helped us get off to a great start. Our offense had a much better flow today.”
The Lions held a 28-17 halftime lead. Delta State made an early run in the second half,” trimming the lead to 30-25. But Wes Long hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Marquel Darrington converted a rare four-point play to push the lead to 40-28.
UNA slowly pulled away from that point. The Lions never allowed Delta State to make a run and Hersey took over offensively. Hersey scored 17 of his points in the second half.
“We kept getting stops and that kept them from making a run,” Champagne said. “Our defense was really good today. Leake is a great player and we made him earn everything he got.”
Darrington added 11 points for the Lions and Long scored nine. Jack Madgen paced Delta State with 13 points.
“You don’t want to have to win at Delta State to earn a split, but we were able to do it,” Champagne said. “It’s nice to be 3-1 in the conference and it’s really nice to see us bounce back after our worst performance of the season.”
UNA will be back in action next Saturday at home against Union.
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.