Tony Pujol was looking for growth from his team in North Alabama’s second game of the season.
Obviously, he wanted a win as well.
He got both Sunday afternoon in Flowers Hall, as the Lions (1-1) pounded Carver 95-64 in their home opener. It was a welcome win after the Lions lost at South Carolina on Wednesday in a physical game that introduced team newcomers Mervin James, C.J. Brim and James Anderson to Division I basketball.
While the Lions were far from perfect Sunday afternoon, there was noticeable improvement. James, a true freshman forward, was one of six Lions in double figures with 14 points. He also had six rebounds. Brim, a junior college transfer who plays point guard, had 12 points and four assists, while Anderson, a junior college forward, had 12 points.
James has had an immediate impact inside on both ends of the floor. He said he felt more comfortable in Sunday’s game than in the first game at South Carolina.
“If I just play defense that helps my teammates out,” James said. “I slowed down from my first game. That was my first college game and I felt like after that I should play more smoothly and calm. I was rushing all my moves (at South Carolina) and I wasn’t playing efficient enough to help my team win.”
Brim, who led UNA in scoring at South Carolina, said that loss was disappointing and provided motivation for the Lions to get their first win.
“It left a bad taste, so we went out and competed hard in practice and that built confidence coming into this game,” he said.
Brim said he likes the energy UNA is playing with. After forcing 20 turnovers at South Carolina, the Lions forced 27 Carver miscues.
“We need to just clean up the little things, like rebounding and talking on defense, just to make each other better,” Brim said.
After a dismal shooting effort at South Carolina, UNA bounced back to shoot 52.6 percent (40 of 76), including 38.5 percent (10 of 26) from 3-point range. The Lions led 52-34 at the half and the lead never dipped under 14 points over the final 20 minutes.
“To me it was all about growth,” Pujol said. “It’s apparent that we were going against one of the best defensive teams in the SEC (last Wednesday). It shows the caliber of team we played right off the bat Today, I wanted to see our guys grow from that. In some cases there was growth, and there is still some growing to do. We’ll get there.”
UNA scored 37 points off turnovers, something Pujol wants to see on a routine basis. The Lions also scored 29 points in transition after getting little against South Carolina.
“The staple of this program is always going to be on the defensive end, and I wanted to see that today,” he said. “We saw it in spurts. There are some things we need to clean up, but for the most part I was really proud that we were plus nine on the boards and forced 27 turnovers. Offensively, we had 22 assists.”
Jamari Blackmon led the Lions with nine assists while only turning it over one time.
“Fantastic job,” Pujol said. “That’s the type of player we are going to need him to be.”
For the Lions, Peyton Youngblood had 14 points, including three 3-pointers. Manny Littles had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Christian Agnew also had 12 points. James, Youngblood and Littles were a combined 18 of 25 from the field.
Jessy Haynes had 15 points for Carver (0-5).
UNA is at Indiana of the Big Ten on Tuesday at 6 p.m.