FAIRBANKS, Alaska – West Florida led by 14 points with 11:55 left in the first half, but the Argonauts gave up the lead and eventually fell to Arkansas Fort Smith 101-90 on the first day of the Alaska Invitational at the Patty Center on Thursday night. With the loss, the Argonauts fell to 0-2, while UA Fort Smith improved to 2-0 with the victory.
UWF (0-2) was led by junior forward Mike Whisman (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS) who scored 18 points and shot 7-9 from the field and 4-6 from the free throw line. Three other players scored in double digits for West Florida, including junior forward Jamar Moore (Coolidge, Ga./Faulkner State CC) with 16 points off the bench.
Sophomore guard Keldric White (Pensacola, Fla./Pensacola HS) performed well in his first career start, scoring eight points and leading the team with 10 rebounds and five assists. The 10 rebounds and five assists were both career highs for White. Junior forward Marquis Mathis (Columbus, Ohio/Cincinnati State CC) also came close to a double-double, scoring 10 points with nine boards.
West Florida and UA Fort Smith (2-0) traded baskets through the first five minutes, but starting with a layup by Whisman at the 14:45 mark the Argos went on a 13-2 run to take a 27-13 lead. Jonathan Garza hit a three-pointer for the Lions to cut the UWF lead to 11, starting a 9-0 run. UA Fort Smith kept pressuring the Argos defense, eventually taking a 49-45 lead into the halftime break.
UWF’s success on offense came after shooting 52.6 percent (20-38) in the first half, led by 12 points by Whisman and 10 by Moore. The Argos also hit the boards in the first half, out-rebounding the Lions 27-17, including a 9-5 edge in offensive rebounds.
The Argos could not keep up the hot-shooting, but they stayed within striking distance for much of the second half. The Lions held the lead for the entire second half, but UWF was within one point with 17:47 left and within four points as late as 4:31. UA Fort Smith pulled away thanks to three straight baskets, going up 88-78 with 3:22 on the clock.
A three-pointer by junior guard Anthony Sims (Mobile, Ala./Faulkner State CC) with 2:19 left cut the Lions’ lead to six, and the Argos kept battling. After two missed free throws by Cedric Henderson with 40 seconds left, the Argos sprinted up court and junior Jamel Brazeal (Mobile, Ala./Faulkner State CC) fed Sims for a layup, cutting the lead to five at 95-90. The Lions made their free throws from that point on, and missed three-pointers by Mathis and Brazeal in the last 20 seconds clinched the win for UA Fort Smith.
The Argonauts took the loss despite outrebounding the Lions 48-38. UWF held an advantage down low, scoring 46 points in the paint compared to 26 for the opponents. Turnovers were a difference-maker, as the Lions scored 31 off turnovers compared to just 14 for West Florida.
UWF will try to pick up its first win of the season against King (Tenn.) on Friday at 3 p.m. local time at the Alaska Invitational. For information on all UWF Athletics, visit www.GoArgos.com.