FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (UWA Athletics) - The historic season continues to march forward for the West Alabama Men's Basketball team as the Tigers defeated Valdosta State 95-87 Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball South Regional in the Rick Case Arena on the campus of Nova Southeastern University.
With the win, UWA improves to 23-7 and sets a new program mark for most wins in a season. Victory tonight also gave the Tigers their first NCAA Tournament win since 1982.
"We were excited for the opportunity to play these guys again," said Allen Sharpe. "It was the only team that swept us during the year in conference play. I thought our guys were ready to play and stepped up to the challenge. We knew coming into this game that tempo and pace of play would be facts. I thought we did a good job handling the pressure and controlling the tempo of the game."
UWA scored a season high 95 points on 64 percent shooting (23-of-50) from the floor including a 54.5 percent effort (6-of-11) from behind the arc and 80.6 percent shooting (25-of-31) from the free throw line.
"You have to take what the defense gives you," said Sharpe. "I think we did a good job for the most part attacking it (VSU's full court press) and scoring some layups which contributed to the score getting so high at the end."
The Tiger defense was as stout as ever and held VSU to 33 percent (7-of-21) in the first half and 50 percent (16-of-32) in the second half to stifle the high-powered Blazer offense.
Ricky Dunnaway led the offense with 24 points and on the boards with 11 rebounds. Darron Johnson went for 21 points including 4-of-5 from behind the arc. LaJuan Hardy finished with 19 points, eight assists and three steals. Charles Tripp went for 12 points and six rebounds and Tyrus Grayson scored 11. Tavaras Tolliver added eight points.
"I had to be aggressive," said Dunnaway. "I got some easy buckets, but (scoring the entire game) wasn't easy with (Darius Jones) and (Bryce Smith) guarding me, those are some big guys and it was tough."
"I figured tonight wouldn't be my night for scoring," said Hardy. "They really packed the paint on me, so I felt like I had to get my guys the ball including Ricky and the other bigs. I felt like Darron stepped up in a big way. Credit to those guys to have the confidence to knock down the shots and belief I'd get them the ball in the right spot."
Beau Justice led VSU with 30 points with 24 point coming in the second half.
West Alabama will face the host and #1 Seed Nova Southeastern Sharks (27-3) Sunday night in the semifinals of the NCAA South Regional. Nova advanced after a strong second half to beat Miles College 80-66.