Statistically, the Owls had an advantage entering the game. Before Wednesday, they led the conference in points per game with 84.3, while the Lions rank second-worst in opponent field-goal percentage at 44.5%.
And although Kennesaw State’s 46.5% from the field fit the narrative, North Alabama hit nine 3-pointers to keep them in the game, only down 43-42 at halftime. The Lions deviated from their 34.4% season average, going 9-for-17 from 3.
Pettway said the Owls’ focus was to take away the paint defensively, but North Alabama made the most of the open shots.
“We gave up 3-point shots to their best shooters,” Pettway said. “You give a team wide open threes, they’re going to make them. And then you give them confidence, now you’re in for a long night.”
The Owls found their answer to North Alabama’s shooting out of the halftime break — Burden’s offensive takeover. He burst past defenders consistently with a quick first step and creativity at the rim. Outside of senior guard Quincy Ademokoya’s 3-pointer at the 17:35 mark, Burden scored 17 straight points for the Owls.
He scored at the rim and the free throw line, reaching 28 points by the 11:45 mark.
Gradually, though, North Alabama’s defense adjusted. They began to double team Burden whenever the ball was in his hands, slowing the Owls’ offense completely. Besides Burden, KSU couldn’t find the bottom of the net, the other players combining for 10 points in the second half and going 6-for-30 behind the arc in the game.
But when asked about the team’s lack of offensive support, Pettway directed the attention to his squad’s lackluster defensive performance.
“When (Burden) kicks it out, you’ve got to be ready to make a play, you’ve got to be ready to shoot it, drive it, pass it ... we didn’t have that tonight,” Pettway said. “We scored 84 points, that’s enough points to win a game if you properly defended.”
Burden dropped 31 second-half points and brought the score as close as 86-84 in the final minute of play. However, North Alabama silenced Kennesaw State’s comeback hopes at the free throw line, going 7-of-8 in the last 27 seconds.
Kennesaw State will look to bounce back at Central Arkansas on Saturday
“Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see them again down the line, and it’ll be a different result,” Pettway said. “We’re going to get better from it, we need to go to Central Arkansas and we need to respond to this adversity.”