It was the Malik Cook-Stroupe show for the first seven minutes of the game, as the senior guard scored all 17 of UAH’s points during that span. In spite of his electric shooting, poor rebounding allowed the Statesman to trade baskets and keep close to the Chargers. It was not until other Chargers began to heat up that UAH began to develop a healthy lead.
Spurred on by some well-timed offensive rebounds, UAH built a 13 point lead with 7 minutes left in the half. It seemed as if the Chargers were posed to head into halftime in possession of a compelling lead, but with only a minute left the Statesman’s Keshaun Street was left open to make a three pointer, which was followed up shortly after by an Austin Laatsch three. Finally as Charger guard Seth Swalve dribbled the ball in an effort to whittle away the clock and get the last shot of the half, the ball was stolen by Laatsch, whose subsequent layup at the buzzer meant the Chargers went into the locker room with a lead of only four.
Both teams came out of the locker room shooting well, and the Chargers remained ahead until a Statesman three tied the score at 48 a piece with 16:22 left. For the next 10 minutes the lead fluctuated back and forth with neither team able to separate themselves. Finally, with 6:50 left on the clock, a three pointer by junior guard Sam Orf gave the Chargers a 73-71 lead that they would never relinquish.
The final minute, however, provided no time for relaxation, even after junior guard JJ Kaplan’s lay-up with 56 seconds on the clock gave UAH a four-point lead. A Keshaun Street layup seconds after brought the lead down to two, and the contest became a question of if the Chargers could successfully convert free throw opportunities into points. They did so successfully, but with 5 seconds left Airen Brooks brought the Statesman to within 1 point. Fortunately for UAH, Delta State fouled 80% free throw shooter, Malik Cook-Stroupe, on the following inbounds play, who proceeded to sink both of his free throws. Up by three, the Chargers elected to foul and send the Statesmen’s McCoy to the line, where he made the first attempt, but was unable to convert an intentional miss on the second into a basket, leaving the Chargers to breathe easier with an 83-81 victory in hand.
In addition to an excellent performance for Malik Cook-Stroupe, who ended the night with 24 points, Sam Orf was very efficient in scoring 21 points, and shooting 55% from behind the arc. JJ Kaplan also played a solid game, tallying 5 assists and 11 rebounds. Max Shulman made a significant contribution coming off the bench as he scored 15 points, with several coming at key junctures of the game. Overall the Chargers shot a respectable 42.9% overall and 36% from long range. The Statesman were superior in both of those categories, along with rebounding. It was turnovers where UAH was significantly on top. Forcing 17 turnovers, while having only 6 themselves, was the difference that allowed them to overcome the rebounding and shooting differential.
This win, the Chargers 15th for the season comes at the start of a four game sequence of match-ups with the two Gulf South conference Mississippi schools: the now familiar Delta State Statesmen, as well as the Mississippi College Choctaws. The Chargers will stay at home for a Saturday game against the Choctaws, but will soon after hit the road heading to Mississippi, as they travel to a rematch against Delta State next Thursday.