191002 UNA mens basketball 8

UNA men's basketball coach Tony Pujol talks to his players during practice. The Lions host Carver today at 2 p.m. in Flowers Hall. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

North Alabama men’s basketball coach Tony Pujol is eager to see a couple of things from his team today when it hosts Carver at 2 p.m. in Flowers Hall.

First, he wants to see a strong bounce-back effort after Wednesday’s 77-55 loss at South Carolina.

Second, he wants to see how much the Lions learned from that loss in a tough environment. That evidence, though, might not been seen until Tuesday when the Lions travel to Indiana of the Big Ten.

After watching film of the South Carolina loss three times, Pujol had much of the same evaluation of the Lions as in the immediate aftermath.

“I saw frustration leak into my guys,” he said Friday evening. “That’s what Frank Martin teams do. We tried to prepare our guys the best we could for that, especially this early in the season against that type of defense. If you look at the game as a whole, we shot it really bad and they had a lot to do with that.”

Poor shooting definitely was a major factor. UNA made just 15 field goals and was a paltry 2 of 21 from behind the arc. South Carolina, a big, physical team, also outrebounded the Lions 47-37 and had 16 second-chance points.

The big takeaway for Pujol and his staff was that the Lions let their shooting woes affect their defense. Somehow the Lions were only trailing 43-39 with 15 minutes to play before South Carolina sprinted away. The Gamecocks used a 14-0 run to get separation and the Lions never recovered.

“At 43-39 I kept telling my guys don’t worry about your shots. Keep defending, you are in the game,” Pujol said. “That’s easier said than done when you are out there competing. Our guys succumbed a little bit to that.”

Pujol also saw a little too much of players trying to be the person to shoot the Lions back into it instead of working in the framework of the offense.

“When teams struggle offensively against teams like Frank’s team, the last thing you can do is think that you have to go make a play on your own,” he said. “You don’t want to do that. Hopefully my team is going to continue to project upward.”

Pujol acknowledged several bright spots from the game. The Lions forced 20 turnovers, Peyton Youngblood played well in his first action since early last season after sitting out with an injured lower back, and newcomers C.J. Brim, James Anderson and Mervyn James showed flashes of what they are capable of doing.

“I liked the fight in our guys,” he said. “They gotta keep learning. This was good. I scheduled that game purposely to make us play against somebody that defensively it would be a war. Now I want to see how we are going to come back and play after that experience.”


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