FLORENCE — A stifling heat and a rash of injuries were not enough to slow down North Alabama on Saturday.
The Lions built a 10-point halftime lead and pulled away in the second half for an 80-63 victory over Union.
UNA (11-2, 4-1 GSC) played without leading scorer and rebounder Bruce Adams, who was out with a concussion. The Lions also survived the heat as the unseasonably warm temperature and problems with the air conditioning led to a very uncomfortable afternoon at Flowers Hall.
“It was really hot, but at least it was easy to get loose,” said junior guard Wes Long, who started in place of Adams. “I was a little worried about our rebounding without Bruce, but we had some young guys step up. My role is the same whether I start or come off the bench, so I just tried to play my regular game.”
Coach Bobby Champagne was pleased with the way his team overcame adversity and cruised to the win.
“We’re pretty banged up right now and I was concerned with Bruce out,” Champagne said. “But we came out and played with good energy. Union has played everybody tough, so it was big to be able to extend the lead against them.”
Neither team shot well in the first half as UNA built a 30-20 lead. The second half was a different story as UNA shot 55.6 percent from the field, including making 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.
Long got the Lions going, hitting a pair of treys in the first three minutes to push the lead to 40-27. Nathan Spehr and Tyler Pritchard later nailed a 3-pointer each and Pritchard scored on a drive to make it 54-33.
“We did a much better job getting the ball inside in the second half,” Long said. “That was the key because it opened up the outside game. We finally were able to knock down some shots and build the lead.”
Senior center DeAndre Hersey scored 11 points in the second half. Redshirt freshman Corey Ricks added nine points off the bench in the half. Ricks scored on a drive to give the Lions their largest lead at 65-40 with 9:27 remaining.
“We talked at halftime about being more aggressive and getting the ball inside,” Champagne said. “When DeAndre is aggressive everybody else will follow. We have to have that post presence for our offense to really click.”
UNA finished with 47 points in the paint and 27 fast break points. UNA’s bench outscored the Bulldogs’ 32-11.
Hersey finished with 18 points to lead UNA. Long added 11 points and Ricks had 10. Keynan Jackson finished with four points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Anthony Freeman paced Union (3-10, 1-4) with 21 points.
Champagne said he hopes to have Adams back this week as the Lions host Shorter on Thursday and play at Alabama-Huntsville on Saturday.
“Shorter is a team that is really playing well, and UAH is playing as well as any team in the country,” Champagne said. “Hopefully we can get Bruce back and get the other guys healthy because it’s a big week for us.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.