It’s safe to say the University of West Florida men’s basketball team took a big step forward Saturday afternoon.
Down by 14 points at halftime, the Argonauts looked like a much different team in the second half, scoring in transition, getting stops on defense and shooting the ball effectively in a 97-89 Gulf South Conference win over West Georgia at the UWF Field House.
West Florida won only seven games a year ago.
The Argos (9-5, 4-5 GSC) have now won nine games, their latest ending a four-game losing streak in the all-time series against the Wolves. Their win over West Georgia (7-8, 4-5) was their fourth conference win in the last five games.
The difference was a 27-0 run in the second half that turned a 66-53 deficit into an 80-66 advantage.
It started with a 3-pointer by Jason Laatsch with 11:50 remaining and ended with Deangelo Legrier scoring on a layup with just over six minutes later.
DJ Thorpe’s basket during the run gave the Argos the lead for good. He scored on a layup off a break with 8:48 remaining, putting West Florida in front 67-66 and electrifying the crowd.
“In the second half our effort was way better,” said second-year head coach Jeff Burkhamer. “We started getting deflections and our defense then created some offense for us. And that kind of got us excited. Jason hits the big 3 at the top of the key that was probably the shot that really set in motion to get that 27-0 run.”
West Florida struggled to keep pace with the Wolves as the opening half wore one. Their biggest issue was getting stops in the paint, especially against Shannon Fowler, who finished his night with 22 points.
The Argos trailed 40-36 after a jumper by Marvin Jones but managed only one basket the rest of the way as the Wolves went into halftime with a 50-38 lead.
Despite the adversity they faced, the Argos didn’t panic.
“We came in as a group without coach in the locker room and talked among ourselves, and came to the conclusion that we just had to get back on defense,” Jones said.”
Jones played a pivotal role in the win for the Argos, lighting up the scoreboard for 26 points.
He scored 14 of those points in the first half, drilling four 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes of action. His second trey of the night tied the game at 10 and his final three of the first half cut the West Florida deficit to 38-34. Jones is averaging 8.9 points per game on the year.
Austin Somerfeld, the leading scorer on the team at 14.8 points per game, stepped up as well, scoring 23 points, including 15 in the second half. His jumper with 9:35 left in the game cut the West Georgia lead to one at 66-65 and a tip-in with 8:20 remaining pushed the West Florida lead to 69-66.
Laatsch finished with a season-high 19 points, including three off a shot from beyond the arc that gave West Florida its first double-digit lead of the day at 76-66.
Winners of two in a row, the Argos are currently one of three teams with a 4-5 record in a tightly contested conference and are very much alive in the race for a conference tourney spot. The top eight make the tourney in March.
West Florida is in great shape at the moment, especially with three of its next four games at home.
“We’re getting better. We just have to continue to improve and continue to believe, and hopefully we can take the next step this week with a couple of home games,” Burkhamer said.
UWF women keep moving forward
Alex Coyne hit a 3-pointer that gave the Argos a little breathing room in the final two minutes of a 63-57 win over West Georgia Saturday.
Coyne’s 3-pointer pushed the Argos in front 58-52 with 1:40 left as the Argos knocked off the Wolves and moved into sole possession of first place in the GSC.
West Florida, which led 29-26 at halftime, is 12-3 overall and 7-2 in the GSC and has won its last two games. The Argos are 4-0 in home conference games this season.
Katie Bobos paved the way, scoring 13 points and grabbing 14 rebounds for her sixth double-double in the last seven games. Shami Goodman had a breakout performance, pouring in 15 points and pulling down seven rebounds.
Coyne drilled three shots from beyond the arc against the Wolves (6-7, 5-4), finishing her day with nine points. She also dished out eight assists.