The UAH Chargers failed to come away with the Gulf South Conference tournament championship, as the Delta State Statesmen solid defense capped UAH to one of their lowest offensive outputs of the season. Fortunately for the Chargers, their strong record likely still assures them a spot in the NCAA tournament despite today’s loss.
Both teams played strong defense for the first half, leading to several shot clock violations and more than a couple of forced shots as the buzzer sounded the to avoid them. UAH maintained a several point lead through the first ten minutes, but after Delta States Cedric Harpers put-back with 10:23 to go, the lead would change numerous times, with a slow pace of play limiting both teams to 24 points as they went into the locker rooms tied.
Both teams began the second half playing slow methodical basketball, with both offenses better able to set-up and make shots than the first half. The lead swung back-and-forth until the 9-minute mark when Mathew Wilson’s dagger from the corner gave the Statesmen a 45-42-point lead, one which they would not relinquish.
The Chargers, seemingly exhausted from playing their third game in three days, were unable to find their shooting touch, as Delta State built a 10-point 55-45 lead with 2:30 left in the game. UAH was able to fight back, to bring it within two with 20 seconds left, but got no closer, as Delta State made their free throws to close out the game.
UAH’s shooting regressed substantially from the past several game. They were limited to 31% from behind the arc, compared to 57% against Western Alabama on Saturday. Delta States fundamentally sound defense certainly played a role in limiting the shooting percentages, but it seemed as if many open shots were missed short, as if the players legs were weakened by the amount of game-time that had endured.
Delta State made a similarly unremarkable 32% of their three pointers, but led by 6-7 forward Cedric Harper, the Statesman had a decided advantage in the paint, winning the rebounding battle 33-29. Three-point specialist Mathew Wilson had, what was for him a standard outing, making 5-11 of the three pointers he took, many at critical junctures of the game.
JJ Kaplan had yet another double-double, but was much less productive than Saturday, as he missed all five of his three-point attempts, and managed only 13 points, compared to his 31 on against UWA. Max Shulman had a good shooting day, finishing 3-5 from behind the line, for 11 points, but the individual point totals reflected Delta States solid defense, as Seth Swalve tied Kaplan as the scoring leader with only 13 points. Sam Orf finished with only 7 points, as he also failed to make a three pointer.
The loss, only the Charger’s 7th, will likely not be enough to keep them out of the NCAA Tournament. Sunday nights selection show should only be important as far as seeding is concerned. Even if they may have cooled off for this game, with some much-needed rest, UAH faces strong odds to advance at least past the first round.