Some things in this world seem to remain constant.
Death. Taxes. Double-double performances from Wyatt Walker.
It seems as though every time the sophomore forward steps onto the hardwood for the Samford Bulldogs, he’s recording a double-double. He opened the season with seven straight double-doubles, before going two straight games without one.
On Friday, against the South Alabama Jaguars, the native of Jacksonville, FL was back to his old ways. He recorded his eighth double-double of the year, scoring 13 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Samford led by as many as 15 points on the night, but the game came down to the wire. A trio of clutch three pointers from the Jaguars closed the deficit to three with 2.8 seconds to go. A free throw violation from Samford gave the Jaguars a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Instead of getting a shot off before the buzzer went, the Jaguars made one too many passes, and almost turned the ball over. They managed to get a shot off, but it was well after the buzzer, and Samford escaped with the 82-79 victory over South Alabama.
The contest started off slow, as neither team got on the board for more than two minutes. Alex Thompson hit a jumper for Samford to end the scoreless tie at the 17:44 mark.
As the first half wound down, the lead would change on several occasions. Neither team was able to take a lead larger than five points over the opening 20 minutes. The Bulldogs scored the final four points of the half, and took a 36-33 advantage into the locker room.
Little did we know at the time, but South Alabama’s 33-32 lead in the final two minutes of the opening half was the last time they would hold a lead on the night.
Nick Stover would hit a three in the opening minute of the second half to get the Jaguars back to even with the Bulldogs, at 36-all, but Samford wouldn’t allow them to take a lead of their own. A layup from Thompson kicked off a 7-0 run for the Bulldogs, and Samford was back in front, 43-36.
The lead would slowly grow for the Bulldogs, and they managed to extend their lead to 15 points with 12:07 to play in the game. A three from Triston Chambers gave the Bulldogs a 57-42 lead.
But, South Alabama wouldn’t quit. They started to chip away at the lead, making a game of things when the time ticked down to the closing few minutes of the game.
Shaq Calhoun hit a jumper with 3:01 to play to bring South Alabama to within five points, at 67-62. Justin Hopkins responded for the Bulldogs, getting the hoop and the harm to fall for the three point play, restoring an eight point lead for the visitors.
Timely three pointers from Georgi Boyanov, Stover, and Calhoun kept South Alabama within striking distance, but they were never able to overtake Samford. Clutch free throw shooting from the likes of Christen Cunningham and Josh Sharkey sealed the deal for the Bulldogs.
It took some extra work in the final minute, but Samford held on for the 82-79 win over South Alabama.
Wyatt Walker went 5-of-8 from the field on the night, scoring 13 points and adding 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. The sophomore came into the night ranked seventh in the nation in rebounds per game, with an average of 11.7 per contest.
Christen Cunningham continued his strong start to the year, recording a team-high 20 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Freshman Josh Sharkey scored a career-high 15 points in the win.
Sharkey and Cunningham were a combined 20-of-23 from the free throw line.
For the Jaguars, Nick Stover (24 points) and Shaq Calhoun (20 points) combined for 44 points on 18-of-31 shooting in the loss. Both hit a clutch three pointer in the final two minutes to keep South Alabama in the game, but it wasn’t enough.
Georgi Boyanov added 16 points and 7 rebounds in the loss.
The win was the fourth straight victory for the Samford Bulldogs (7-3, 0-0), while the loss was the fifth straight defeat for the South Alabama Jaguars (6-5, 0-0).
Both teams are back in action Monday night.
– T. Bennett