FORT SMITH, Ark. – Three players scored in double-figures for UAFS but that wasn’t enough for the nationally-ranked Lions as the Newman Jets used a strong second-half effort to beat the Lions 73-64 in Heartland Conference play on Wednesday night at Fugate Gymnasium in Wichita, Kan.
The loss snapped the Lions’ four-game winning streak and forced a split in their regular-season series with the Jets. UAFS (18-4, 7-4), which is ranked No. 15 in the latest NABC Division II Top 25 and No. 22 in the latest D2SIDA Top 25, is now in a four-way tie for second in the conference with Newman (10-11, 6-4), Rogers State (14-7, 5-4) and Lubbock Christian (9-11, 5-4).
All are now two-games behind conference leader and No. 18/19-ranked Dallas Baptist, which beat Rogers State 59-57 on Wednesday night to extend its conference lead. UAFS will host Dallas Baptist at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Stubblefield Center.
UAFS shot a sizzling 53 percent from the field in the first half (17 of 32) in building a comfy nine-point, halftime lead (41-32). Newman, though, held UAFS to just 31-percent shooting in the second half – the Lions were only 9-of-29 shooting from the field – and erased its deficit on the strength of a 52-percent shooting effort of its own from the field (13 of 25), including a 5-of-10 shooting effort from 3-point range.
The Lions shot 43 percent from the field for the game (26 of 61) – they were 6-of-24 shooting from 3-point range – and shot 75 percent from the free-throw line (6 of 8). Senior guard DaVaunta Thomas scored a team-high 18 points, while senior guard Darrion Strong-Moore had 15 and senior guard Ladarius Coleman had 14.
Coleman, who is the reigning Conference Player of the Week, topped off his double-double with 10 rebounds, helping the Lions edge the Jets by two rebounds (36-34). UAFS collected 11 offensive rebounds that led to 12 second-chance points.
Newman forced 12 UAFS turnovers, however, which the Jets turned into 20 points.
The Jets shot 43 percent from the field for the game (23 of 54) – they were 9-of-28 shooting from 3-point range – and shot 86 percent from the free-throw line (18 of 21). Junior guard Dametrius Walker scored a team-high 27 points off the bench – he made four of the Jets’ nine 3-pointers – while junior guard Ben Ayre had 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Senior guard Damien Akao had 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Junior forward Tim Troussel had seven rebounds to lead the Jets.