This past Saturday night I had a flashback of sorts.
I started to remember what North Alabama basketball was like back in the late 1970s when Flowers Hall was packed and the fans were going crazy. I remembered what made college basketball such a great game.
The flashback was brought on by what myself and 2,437 fans witnessed at Spragins Hall of the campus of the University of Alabama-Huntsville. UNA and UAH gave the fans a real treat in both the men’s and women’s games.
UNA came away a winner in both games. The men trailed by 17 points in the first half before putting together a great rally in the second half to earn an 81-71 victory over the No. 9 Chargers.
The women’s game went back-and-forth for the first 35 minutes before the Lions pulled away late to give UAH its first home loss, beating the Chargers 80-73.
Regardless of who won the games, it was a special night because of the atmosphere.
One thing that makes any sport special, and especially college athletics, is a good rivalry. Anyone who has lived in Alabama for any length of time understands what a rivalry is all about because of the Iron Bowl.
While that rivalry sometimes goes a little too far, a good rivalry can bring out the best in the teams involved along with the fans. That was certainly the case in Huntsville on Saturday.
UNA got outstanding support from its fans in UAH’s home gym. Though outnumbered probably 20-to-1, the UNA fans made their presence known in one of the toughest places to play in Division II.
That type of rivalry is what has been missing at UNA since Jacksonville State, Troy and Alabama A&M made the move to Division I. Delta State and Valdosta State have turned into decent football rivals, but it has not been the same on the basketball court.
UAH is the perfect rival for UNA in basketball. The schools are 60 miles apart, so it’s an easy trip for the visiting fans.
For years it was obvious that the rivalry was much more important to UAH. Maybe that’s because UNA dominated the series for many years. UAH, however, had won seven straight in the men’s series entering Saturday’s game, so the UNA players and fans were hungry for a win.
If you missed it, you can still catch the rematch in Flowers Hall on Feb. 23. You can bet UAH will bring a great crowd for that one and it would be great to see the first capacity crowd for a UNA game in many years.
It should be another great atmosphere for college basketball.
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.