All of a sudden, the Heartland Conference men’s basketball race has gotten really interesting.
After losing two games in a row to start conference play, the UAFS Lions since won five games in a row and are now one of three teams tied for second place in the league standings behind conference leader Texas A&M International.
Texas A&M International (13-4, 6-1) own a one-game lead with St.Mary’s (12-3, 5-2), UAFS (12-3, 5-2) and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (11-4, 5-2) close behind in second place.
UAFS will look to continue its pursuit of Texas A&M International this week with a two-game homestand against McMurry and St. Edward’s. The Lions will host McMurry at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Stubblefield Center and will host St. Edward’s at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Stubblefield Center.
Thursday’s game against McMurry will be broadcast on KHGG-FM 103.1 and KHGG-AM 1580 and via the Internet at www.sportshog1031.com. Live statistics and webcast will be available by visiting Fan Central on the UAFS athletics website (www.uafslions.com).
The Lions are coming off a hard-fought, 80-78 road win at Rogers State on Saturday at the Claremore Expo Center in Claremore, Okla. It was the last of three consecutive road games for the Lions, who are 5-2 in non-neutral site road games this season.
UAFS, which is 7-0 at home this season, averages 86.8 points per game with three players averaging double-figures in scoring – freshman guard Seth Youngblood (14.1), senior guard Jake Toupal (14) and sophomore forward Kenny Martin (10.3).
The Lions allow 73.3 points per game and force 13.5 turnovers per game. Toupal leads the team with 11 steals, and Martin leads the team with 30 blocks..
UAFS out-rebounds its opponents by eight rebounds per game (40.3-32.3). Martin leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per game and is one of three Lions averaging five or more rebounds per game.
It will be the first and only meeting of the regular-season between UAFS and McMurry, which is a provisional member of NCAA Division II. The all-time series is tied at one win apiece with UAFS beating McMurry 66-61 at the Stubblefield Center on Dec. 1, 2012, and McMurry beating UAFS 66-58 at Kimbrell Arena on March 2, 2013.
McMurry (8-8, 3-4) has lost two in a row and is coming off a 77-60 home loss to Lubbock Christian on Saturday at Kimbrell Arena. The War Hawks, however, are one of only two conference teams to beat St. Mary’s this season.
The War Hawks average 73.7 points per game with three players averaging double-figures in scoring – senior guard Kourtney Goff (13.7), senior center Alfred Perez (12.6) and junior guard Brandon Golden (11.3). McMurry allows 74.3 points per game and forces 14.9 turnovers per game. Junior guard Alex Lewis leads the team with 19 steals, and Perez leads the team with 16 blocks.
McMurry averages 36.4 rebounds per game, which is only slightly more than it allows per game (36.6). Junior forward Conor Robinson leads the team with 6.6 rebounds per game and is one of three players averaging five or more rebounds per game.