ANCHORAGE — It was the final minute of a basketball game that was already decided, but UAA's Christian Leckband still had a scowl on his face while defending Belmont's Kerron Johnson near half court.
Johnson made a quick dribble to his left and Leckband gave him a hard chest bump indicative of the physically intense battle that took place late Wednesday night at the Sullivan Arena.
UAA suffered a 74-60 loss to Belmont in the opening round of the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout but managed to establish a style of play that, while never malicious, was always ferocious.
"They weren't backing down and they played really hard," Belmont's Reece Chamberlain said. "There were times when they kind of took it to us, so we had to make sure we kind of took it back to 'em. It was a very physical game, but it was fun."
Chamberlain crashed to the floor as often as any player, taking the game's biggest spill when he soared through the air to block a shot and wound up sprawled behind the basket with medical staff attending.
"I kinda landed on my head and my arm kinda went numb, but I was able to make it back." he said.
Late in the second half, Chamberlain waved to the bench for a substitute, because he landed on his wrist during a drive on the previous play. Again, he was able to return to action.
Dealing with bumps and scrapes is all part of being a basketball player, Chamberlain said.
"The refs were letting us play, which was good," he said. "They were calling it even on both sides. It was tough for both teams, so I was glad we were able to work through it."
UAA center Liam Gibcus, who more than once landed on his back after taking a shot or going for a rebound, said "hustle" is the word that most aptly characterized a game that was full of strategy and skill.
UAA is always working to improve its mettle, so the fierce game was welcome, he said.
"I think the tougher team did win tonight, but it helped us on our road to get tougher," Gibcus said.
There weren't any cheap shots, pushes or punches, but from the simplest of hand checks to the hardest of screens, the game maintained a hard edge throughout. Chins bounced off shoulders and players bounced off the floor.
Johnson and Gibcus both chased one loose ball beyond the courtside seats on a play late in the second half. Johnson dove head first and disappeared behind the scoring table, leaving doubt about his well-being until he sprung back into view a few moments later.
UAA trailed by 10 at halftime and managed to get within six points in the second half, but easy shots were impossible to come by against a tenacious Belmont team that never looked in danger of losing.
"They're tough, they're physically tough," UAA coach Rusty Osborne said. "We were setting screens, but they were running through them.
They weren't letting themselves get screened."
UAA's Kyle Fossman, who was sporting ice bags on his knuckles shortly after the game, said he felt like he had just survived a fight. The junior tangled with Chamberlain on numerous occasions, but said he avoided serious injury and will be ready to go in Friday's 1 p.m. consolation game against UC Riverside.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
BELMONT (74) -- Jenkins 3-6 3-4 9, Johnson 1-7 1-1 3, Mann 5-10 3-6 13, Clark 5-11 1-2 14, Noack 6-13 2-2 15, Laidig 0-0 0-0 0 Mobley 0-0 0-0 0, Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Lang 0-0 0-0 0, Chamberlain 1-2 4-5 6, Bradshaw 3-6 0-0 7, Barnes 2-4 0-0 4, Baker 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 27-61 8-19 74.
UAA (60) -- MacKelvie 5-12 2-2 14, Lauwers 0-3 2-2 2, Stafford 3-7 3-5 11, Gibcus 5-10 3-4 13, Fossman 2-7 0-0 6, Leckband 1-2 2-2 5, Heard 0-1 2-2 2, Erickson 0-0 0-0 0, Little 0-3 0-0 0, Demissie 0-1 0-0 0, Spickerman 3-4 0-0 7. Totals 19-50 14-17 60.
Halftime -- Belmont 41, UAA 31.
3-point goals -- Belmont 8-19 (Jenkins 0-1, Mann 3-6, Clark 3-7, Noack 1-1, Chamberlain 0-1, Bradshaw 1-3). UAA 8-18 (MacKelvie 2-3, Lauwers 0-3, Stafford 2-4, Fossman 2-4, Leckband 1-1, LIttle 0-1, Demissie 0-1, Spickerman 1-1). Rebounds -- Belmont 33 (Jenkins 6), UAA 35 (MacKelvie 6, Lauwers 6). Total fouls -- Belmont 18, UAA 12. Fouled out -- none. Assists -- Belmont 18 (Clark 5), UAA 17 (Lauwers 8). Turnovers -- Belmont 11 (Clark 3), UAA 20 (Lauwers 4). Steals -- Belmont 12 (Mann 5), UAA 3. Blocked shots -- Belmont 4, UAA 7 (Spickerman 3).