LIVINGSTON – It took nine months, nine days and over 70 practices, but new West Alabama head Nick Woodruff finally earned his first win as the head coach of the Tigers, a 70-64 come-from-behind decision over Mississippi College Tuesday at Pruitt Hall Gym.
“Not that I am counting,” Woodruff said.
West Alabama (1-0) and Mississippi College (0-3) finish the season-opening series for the Tigers Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Pruitt Hall.
Mississippi College got off to a fast start, shooting 83 percent (10-for-12) from the floor in the first 11 minutes to build a 22-15 advantage, but missed their next eight shots as the Tigers cut the Choctaw lead to 24-21 with just over four minutes to play in the first half.
West Alabama continued to defend well as the half wound down, holding the Choctaws to 3-for-14 from the field down the stretch with Mississippi College taking a 30-26 lead into the half.
“They punched us in the mouth early, but we rallied back,” Woodruff said. “We have waited so long to play this game. I mean here we are opening our season on January 12 due to different COVID precautions.
“That’s a resilient group of kids in that locker room, a good group that really wants to play,” Woodruff said. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far, but now we have to get going and do it all again tomorrow (Wednesday).”
The Tigers came out firing on all cylinders to begin the second half, tying the game at 30-30 at the 19:24 mark before a three-pointer by Roger Davis with 18:53 left gave UWA its first lead at 33-30. UWA outscored MC 20-9 over first eight minutes of second half.
Mississippi College ended up shooting 54 percent (26-for-48) from the floor, while West Alabama rebounded from a slow start to convert 44 percent (27-of-61). The Tigers recorded nine steals and forced 17 Choctaw turnovers.
The game was tied at 61-61 with 2:14 left, but a jumper from Shardarrion Allen and a pair of free throws each from Justin Allison and CJ Melton stretched the UWA lead to 67-61 with 1:53 to play. Three free throws from Antonio Cowart helped MC cut the lead to 67-64 before a three-pointer from Allison provided the final margin with 7.5 seconds left.
Allison led all scorers and three West Alabama double-figure scorers with 20 points. Allen chipped in 18 on a 9-of-12 shotting night. Davis chipped in 14. Allison, the UWA point guard, also collected a team-high seven rebounds and five assists. Allen had four steals.
“Justin had a great game and I am proud of him,” Woodruff said. “It’s been a rough stretch of practice for him because I have coached him really hard over the last week, but he is tough enough to handle it and I am so proud of his coachability.”
Brandon Boston scored 18 points and Cowart chipped in 17 to lead Mississippi College, Marko Jovanovic collected a game-high eight rebounds, for MC. Boston made 7-of-10 from the field. The Choctaws outrebounded UWA, 33-27.