Huge comeback for UWF men’s basketball team ultimately ends in loss

Grier Wellborn

Sports Editor

 

When the University of West Florida men’s basketball team fell short by 14 points at halftime against the University of West Georgia on Monday night, a win did not seem probable for the Argos. The Argos were down 25-39 to the Wolves when they fled to the locker room at the half.

When the Argos returned to the court at the beginning of the second half, it seemed as though an entirely different team had emerged from the locker room; a team that refused to lose to UWG and allow them to extend their history of defeating the Argos. The intensity from players such as redshirt junior guard Mario Stramaglia, junior forward Austin Somerfield and junior guard Jelani Pruitt changed completely with the start of the second half.

After a three-point field goal by Stramaglia with less than 10 minutes in the game, the Wolves lead only by a single point. Two successful foul shots by junior forward Deangelo Legrier gave the Argos their first led in the second half.

For the next nine, stressful minutes of the game, both teams would alternate leads up until the final three seconds of the game.

With a tied score of 69-69, a foul against UWG guard Iakeem Aiston with only three seconds remaining resulted in a loss for UWF. Aiston’s two successful foul shots would be the last points scored in the game. The 71-69 win for the Wolves would leave the Argos heartbroken.

The Argos’ history of losing in the final seconds of the game has grown tiresome for players, and they say they hope to improve their game by playing both halves with everything they have.

“We need to start the game just like we end the game,” Pruitt said. “We tend to pick it up in the second half more, so that’s a bad habit to have. We need to play 100 percent the whole time.” Pruitt was the top scorer for UWF with 16 points against the Wolves.

Players bowed their heads as they returned to the locker room, and Head Coach Jeff Burkhamer was visibly angry at the result of the game.

The team that returned from the locker room at the start of the second half would have won the game if they had played both halves, according to Burkhamer.

“They listened in the second half,” Burkhamer said. “They played together, they passed the ball, we dug in defensively, and we have to play that way every minute of every game in order to be in it.”

Burkhamer says he hopes the Argos will drive to win one-possession games such as this one to repair their current losing record of 10-3.

A lack of defensive play was the catalyst for the loss, according to Stramaglia.

“I think the biggest difference was our defense execution between the first half and second half. We were not able to stop the ball in transition a few times in the first half and our defense execution was poor,” Stramaglia said. “Second half we were able to make stops on the defensive side, which led to fast break points and easy baskets that helped us chip away a 16- point lead to being up by two. Unfortunately, we were just one possession short in finishing the game.”

Despite an unfortunate loss for the men’s basketball team, the women’s basketball team was able to defeat UWG 61-57, improving their record to 10-4. The Argos have now won seven consecutive games, a win streak that hasn’t been matched in more than 10 years.

Sophomore forward Toni Brewer led the team by scoring a personal season high of 14 points and seizing 14 rebounds in the game.

Both the men and women’s basketball teams visited Valdosta State on Saturday and will return to the UWF Field House on Jan. 28 to face off against Lee University.