For the third consecutive season, the University of Alabama in Huntsville men's basketball team has reached the NCAA South Regional championship game as the team defeated a tough Benedict squad 64-60 on Sunday evening at the Jenkins Field House on the campus of Florida Southern College.
The Chargers improve to 25-5 on the season with the victory, and Benedict ends the year at 24-7.
"I thought our guys showed great resolve," said Head Coach Lennie Acuff following the win. "We're down three at the last media timeout, and we talked about getting stops and scores and that's we were able to do."
Jaime Smith scored 16 – including an 8-for-9 showing at the charity stripe – to pace the squad once again, and Ronnie Mack hit four big 3-pointers to tally 14. Joining the two in double figures on the night was Wayne Dedrick who made three shots from beyond the arc and finished with 11 points.
"I thought obviously Ronnie Mack really stepped up big for us tonight," Acuff said. "Wayne got us going there at one point in the second half, and Jaime was just Jaime. I [also] really thought a big key to the game was Greg Gardner and Conner Blasi off the bench. They both rebounded, and they both took care of the ball."
Providing the team with a 28-25 lead at the halftime break, Dedrick hit one of his triples as time expired in the first period.
In the second half with the Chargers leading 39-37 after one of the other Dedrick 3-balls at the 14:56 mark, Goode scored six straight points to provide Benedict with a 43-39 advantage.
"We had no answer for the big kid (Goode)," said Acuff. "He's as good as we've seen since I've been here."
UAH would answer with an 11-0 run that started with three straight shots from downtown by Mack and was punctuated by an electrifying dunk by Blasi. The spurt put UAH up 50-43 with 8:44 remaining in the contest.
The strong performance for Mack snaps a tough four-game stretch in which he had scored 10 total points and made just two 3-pointers, but Acuff made it a point to express his belief in the Birmingham native prior to the game and Mack rewarded him for the faith.
"When somebody shows confidence in you, it makes you feel better especially with the last part of the year I've been having," said Mack. "It made me feel good knowing that I have their trust."
Benedict would respond and eventually went back in front 59-56 with just under three minutes left in the ballgame.
UAH then would outscore the Tigers by an 8-1 margin down the stretch as Jaime Smith scored six of his points in the final two minutes to help will his team to the victory.
The Chargers shot just 39.3 percent from the floor in the contest, but the difference in the game was long-range shooting as Benedict connected on 44.4 percent of its total attempts but went 2-for-12 from 3-point land in the affair.
Goode led Benedict with 29 points and 13 rebounds.