Coming off of first loss of season.
FORT SMITH, Ark. – It didn’t take UAFS long to rediscover its shooting touch.
Two days after shooting a season-low 34.8 percent from the field in a loss to Oklahoma Christian, the nationally-ranked Lions shot a sizzling 53 percent from the field in their 96-71 rout of the Newman Jets on Saturday at the Stubblefield Center.
UAFS (14-1, 3-1), which is ranked No. 4 in the latest D2SIDA Top 25 and No. 9 in the latest NABC Division II Top 25, bounced back nicely from its surprising 62-58 loss to Oklahoma Christian at the Eagles Nest in Oklahoma City and regained a share of first place in the Heartland Conference.
The Lions’ lopsided win against the Jets (6-8, 3-1) capped an afternoon of conference play that saw both conference unbeatens suffer losses – Newman and No. 16 Dallas Baptist. Dallas Baptist (12-2, 3-1) lost 72-70 at Rogers State (10-5, 1-2), which lost to Newman on Thursday night and UAFS earlier this season.
UAFS, Dallas Baptist and Newman each share first place and own a one-game lead over a second-place juggernaut of five teams with two conference losses.
The Lions made 29 of 55 shots from the field – they were 13-of-24 shooting from 3-point range – and made 25 of 34 shots from the free-throw line. Five players scored in double-figures for the Lions, who led by 20 points at halftime.
Senior guard DaVaunta Thomas led UAFS with 21 points, senior guard Darrion Strong-Moore had 20, junior guard Chris Crawford had 14 and senior guard Ladarius Coleman and freshman forward Adam Rivera had 10 apiece.
The Lions’ multiple double-digit scorers were the by-product of their unselfishness. UAFS had 25 assists as a team with Crawford accounting for six assists on his own.
UAFS dominated Newman rebounding-wise, too, out-rebounding the Jets by 11 rebounds (40-29). Thomas had eight rebounds to lead an otherwise balanced rebounding effort by the Lions.
Defensively, UAFS forced 19 turnovers that it converted into 26 points. Coleman, Elder and sophomore guard Seth Hawley each had two steals apiece.
Newman shot 41 percent from the field (24 of 59) – it was 7-of-30 shooting from 3-point range – and shot 73 percent (15 of 22) from the free-throw line. Three Jets scored in double-figures.
Junior guard Ben Ayre had a team-high 19 points, while junior guard Dametrius Walker had 18 and senior forward Kevin Bryant had 10. Bryant also had a team-high eight rebounds.