Balanced scoring and stellar defense propelled the University of West Florida women’s basketball team to a 63-54 Gulf South Conference win over West Alabama Saturday afternoon at the UWF Fieldhouse.
Three players scored in double figures for the Argonauts, who won their sixth consecutive game. UWF (9-4, 7-2 GSC) didn’t score in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter, their final points coming on a 3-pointer by Alex Coyne that made the score 63-44, but the Argos limited the Tigers’ scoring opportunities to preserve the win.
“We made some adjustments at halftime on defense and I thought our players did a tremendous job of sticking with them and finishing out plays,” UWF head coach Stephanie Lawrence Yelton said.
UWF led 35-26 at halftime but exploded for 23 points in the third quarter to take a 58-38 lead into the fourth. Toni Brewer had a lot to do with the success, scoring six of her 14 points in the quarter.
“We did a good job of feeding our post players and were more aggressive attacking the basket,” Yelton said.
The effort paid off. In addition to Brewer’s solid performance off the bench, Belle Bistrow poured in 13 points in her first collegiate start and Katie Bobos finished with 11 points. Coyne, the daughter of Navarre girls basketball coach Jackie Coyne, scored nine points, dished out seven assists and tallied two steals. She leads the conference in assists, averaging 7 per game.
“We talked about balance from the very first game and we have multiple players who can have big nights on the offensive end of the floor,” Yelton said. “It makes it a challenge for the other team to take someone away.”
At one point this year, UWF was 3-4. But the Argos have gotten on a roll and are still in contention for the conference title — they sit one game behind Delta State and Lee — and a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II tournament.
“We were 3-4 and scraping to get to .500. Now, we’re 9-4. It’s a huge difference. As coaches, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the losses, and I was frustrated at times. But you have to keep the perspective that it’s a process. We want to be playing our best basketball in February and March. We’re playing good basketball right now but we have a lot more improvements to make.”
UWF men’s team snaps losing streak
Life has been tough for the UWF men’s basketball team lately, with the Argos losing six consecutive games, but the streak came to an end Saturday in a 78-70 win over West Alabama.
The Argos lost three games by five points or less during the streak but played, arguably, their most complete game of the season against the Tigers. UWF shot nearly 50 percent from the field, connecting on 48.1 percent (26-of-54) of its shots and were fueled by double-double efforts from Jelani Pruitt and Austin Somerfield.
Pruitt poured in 20 points and also grabbed 14 rebounds while Somerfield finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Pruitt has recorded three double-doubles this year. Somerfield has five.
“It’s important to win every game, and today we beat a very good team,” first-year head coach Jeff Burkhamer said. “I loved how hard we fought for 40 minutes.”
The Argos opened the game on a roll, racing out to a 17-8 lead after a dunk by Mario Stramaglia. But the Tigers battled back and actually led 19-18 before Deangelo Legrier scored on a layup and drew a foul. His free throw gave the Argos a 21-19 lead with 8:14 left in the half.
One of the keys to success for UWF against West Alabama was that it defended the 3-point line well. The Tigers came in as one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the conference but connected only twice on 16 attempts.
“We committed to guarding tonight,” Burkhamer said. “They lead the league in 3-point percentage and we held them to 2-of-16 shooting because we guarded well and challenged shots. And on the offensive end, guys made plays.”
The Argos, now 3-9 overall and 2-7 in the conference, hope this win sets the stage for a strong finish to the season.
“It feels great to win,” Pruitt said. “But we have to get back to work and keep pushing. We want to keep winning games.”