LAKELAND, Fla. – Jaime Smith made a floater fall with 2.5 seconds remaining, and Alabama-Huntsville defeated Christian Brothers 60-58 in the first round of the NCAA South Regional on Saturday afternoon. The Chargers improve to 24-5 on the season, while CBU’s year ends at 21-9.
“We were very fortunate,” said Head Coach Lennie Acuff following the win. “We played an excellent basketball team in Christian Brothers. I was real proud of our guys and our seniors –- the way they stepped up there at the end.”
Smith scored a stunning 31 points in the contest after averaging just 8.4 points per game in his previous eight games against the Bucs during his career, and none were more important than the two he scored with the game tied at 58-58 late.
CBU was then unable to get a good look at a potential game-winning 3-pointer as the clock expired.
“I didn’t think about making it or missing it,” said Smith. “I just wanted to win, and I got open and was able to put it in.”
UAH roared out to a 12-0 start and eventually built up a 28-10 lead by the 11:20 mark of the first half, but the Bucs would respond and cut the deficit to 36-34 by the halftime break.
Christian Brothers – behind the strong play of Michael Drake who scored 24 points – held a four-point lead at 56-52 with 3:41 left, but Xavier Baldwin hit a triple with 3:18 left to make it 56-55 and he buried another with 1:32 on the clock to put UAH ahead 58-56.
“He’s been great in the last three regionals,” said Acuff of Baldwin who led the team in scoring in last year’s regional championship game over CBU. “He’s in that gym more than anybody, and he deserved to make it.”
A Drake layup with 18 seconds remaining tied the contest to set up the heroics from Smith.
The Chargers finished the game shooting 40.4 percent while the Bucs shot 38.9 percent from the floor.
Joining Smith in double figures in scoring was Wayne Dedrick who tallied 10 points, and the Chargers were led on the boards by Zane Campbell and Conner Blasi who both grabbed seven rebounds.
UAH will now play Benedict in the NCAA South Regional semifinals on Sunday.