One portion of the North Alabama men’s basketball season within a season continues today when the Lions travel to former Gulf South Conference rival Troy.
It’s the second of five games against teams from within the confines of the state’s borders, a fact that is not lost on the Lions.
UNA is 1-0 against state teams so far, having beaten Samford in the fourth game of the season. Today’s game is the first of four more games against state teams, with contests vs. Birmingham-Southern, UAB and Alabama A&M to follow in succession over the next 16 days.
“So far, we are undefeated against teams from Alabama, and we’d like to continue that,” forward Payton Youngblood said after the Lions beat Morehead State on Saturday.
Troy handed UNA a 77-58 loss last season. That game was also played at Troy.
Guard Christian Agnew said the Lions (4-4) are looking for a little payback from last year’s loss.
”I think we have a better chance this year,” he said. “We’re making progress, but we haven’t played our best yet.”
There’s more than just beating state schools at stake, though. The Lions are looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season, and also a win would put UNA over the .500 mark for the first time during coach Tony Pujol’s tenure. UNA is also looking for its first road win this season in five tries.
“We need to get this win, not only to get one on the road but also to get some momentum going,” Youngblood said.
The Lions are coming off a 67-57 win over Morehead State, a game in which Agnew scored 17 points and Youngblood 16. The Lions built a 16-point lead in the second half before Morehead State trimmed it to five in the closing minutes. UNA made 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch to pull away for good.
Pujol said he was pleased with the way UNA answered the late adversity.
“I told my guys in the last segment, ‘Don’t look at the clock,’” Pujol said. “The mentality should be to put more time on the clock, not let the clock run out. Keep playing. They responded after Morehead made their little run.”
The second-year coach was happy with the way the Lions cemented the win at the free-throw line. That’s an area in which they have struggled some this season. Against Morehead, though, UNA was a solid 18 of 23.
“I’ll take that every time,” Pujol said.