UAFS now one back in loss column.
FORT SMITH, Ark. – Survival.
UAFS sophomore guard Seth Hawley grabbed the rebound of a desperation 3-point shot by Dallas Baptist’s Patrick Burke with six seconds left, was fouled and made one of two free-throw attempts with two seconds left to seal a come-from-behind 69-65 win for the Lions on Saturday afternoon at the Stubblefield Center.
UAFS, which is ranked No. 15 in the NABC Division II Top 25 and No. 22 in the D2SIDA Top 25, split its regular-season series with Dallas Baptist, which is ranked No. 18 in the NABC Division II Top 25 and No. 19 in the D2SIDA Top 25.
It was nearly a must-win situation for the Lions in order for them to keep their dream of a conference championship repeat alive. UAFS (19-4, 8-4) pulled within one loss of conference-leading Dallas Baptist (18-4, 8-3) and shares second place with Newman (11-11, 7-4).
The Lions have four conference games remaining in the regular-season – at home against St. Edward’s on Saturday, Feb. 10; at Texas A&M International on Thursday, Feb. 15; at St. Mary’s on Saturday, Feb. 17; and at home against Oklahoma Christian on Thursday, Feb. 22.
The Patriots have five conference games remaining – at Lubbock Christian on Thursday, Feb. 8; at home against Oklahoma Christian on Thursday, Feb. 15; at St. Edward’s on Saturday, Feb. 17; and at Newman on Saturday, Feb. 24.
Dallas Baptist led 32-28 at halftime, and the Patriots twice built as much as an eight-point lead in the second half. The Lions, however, managed to keep the Patriots from widening their lead to double-digits and methodically chipped away at their deficit.
UAFS took its first lead since the 12-minute mark of the first half when senior guard DaVaunta Thomas took a pass from senior guard Darrion Strong-Moore and threw down a thunderous dunk to give the Lions a 63-62 lead with 2:17 to play.
The Lions never trailed again.
Dallas Baptist briefly tied the game 63-63 on a free throw by forward JT Harris with 1:55 to play, but Thomas scored on a layup with 1:40 left to give the Lions the lead for good 65-63. UAFS stretched its lead to five points (68-63) on a jumper by Strong-Moore with 48 seconds left and twice missed opportunities to put the game completely out of reach in the final 40 seconds.
Burke got an open look at a potential game-tying 3-pointer with six seconds left, but his shot was off the mark. Hawley grabbed the rebound and was fouled by guard Connor Lidiak with two seconds left.
Hawley missed the first free-throw attempt, but he made the second shot to give the Lions an insurmountable four-point lead.
Thomas and Strong-Moore dominated the game for the Lions, who remained undefeated at home this season. Thomas had 19 points and topped off his double-double with a career-high 17 rebounds, which is fifth-most in a game during the Lions’ NCAA Division II era. Strong-Moore had a team-high 22 points, accounting for five of the Lions’ seven 3-pointers.
UAFS shot 43 percent from the field (26 of 60) – it was 7-of-27 shooting from 3-point range – and shot just 48 percent from the free-throw line (10 of 21). UAFS did out-rebound Dallas Baptist by two rebounds (39-37), collecting 10 offensive rebounds that led to 11 second-chance points.
Dallas Baptist shot 44 percent from the field (24 of 55) – it was 10-of-28 shooting from 3-point range – and shot 44 percent from the free-throw line (7 of 16). Lidiak and forward Chandler Jacobs each had 15 points, while guard Boy Van Vliet had 14 points. Burke had a team-high nine rebounds.
UAFS forced 18 turnovers that led to 19 points.