The North Alabama fast-break offense got rolling from the opening tip and the Lions never looked back Thursday, beating Virginia-Lynchburg 128-26 and giving head coach Missy Tiber her 100th win with the program.
Not only did Tiber earn her 100th win, but the Lions reset the record books for highest scoring margin in program history with 102, the most points in school history with 128 and most field goals made with 51.
Add six players in double figures to the mix and it makes for a solid season debut, to say the least.
“We want to be the best team we’re capable of being. I think our girls, we just have enough maturity with all the seniors,” Tiber said. “Then, they’re teaching the young kids really well. I’m just really pleased with how everyone played.”
Virginia-Lynchburg (0-1) had trouble taking care of the ball offensively, resulting in 29 turnovers. UNA (1-0), on the other hand, had 40 points off turnovers and finished the game shooting 65 percent from the field, going for 51 for 79.
The Lions had control of the game from the opening tip, as Tiber wanted to push the ball, something senior guard Ivy Wallen, who finished with 16 points and 11 assists, said the team was used to after doing it every day in practice.
“It just comes second nature to us,” Wallen said. “We like to play fast and we like teams that don’t like to play fast because that’s in our benefit. It’s who are. That’s what we do.”
UNA’s leading scorer was senior forward Brittany Panetti, who finished with 22 points and seven rebounds. Panetti said the offense was clicking with everything from wraparound passes inside the paint to players being open on the wing for catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.
“Everything was just hitting tonight. That’s all you can ask for in a first game,” Panetti said.
When the starters went to the bench, other players stepped up late in the game to allow UNA to make new marks in the record book. The offense didn’t miss a beat, as freshman guard Jaida Bond came alive in the fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers and finishing with 18 points. Emma Wallen and Olivia Noah each added 12 points and Sarah Suttle scored 10.
Each time a shot went in the Lions' starters on the bench gave a standing ovation. Tiber said the nerves might’ve played a factor as to why those shots weren’t going in early, but nevertheless she was pleased to see them go in.
“We can really shoot the basketball, all of our kids,” Tiber said. “We can put some points up. It’s going to be our defense, intensity and focus every game.”
Wallen said she heard about the potential of Tiber getting her 100th win before the game.
“She deserves it, she deserves everything. She’s put this team together,” Wallen said.
Tiber took a moment to reflect on the what stands out about this particular team and that it was the one that gave her the 100th win.
“I love this team. It’s one of my most enjoyable teams in my coaching career,” Tiber said. “They’re just so easy. They embrace us as coaches. I think that’s what makes this group special.”