In the process-driven world of Tony Pujol's University of North Alabama men's basketball program, what happens next is what's most important.

Sure, the last 10 ASUN games have been special. Sure, the 9-1 record during that stretch put the Lions in position to turn this season into one to remember. Sure, it's a fun ride.

But, again, what's next is what's important. The fans expected to fill CB&S Bank Arena at Flowers Hall on Wednesday aren't there to watch the past 10 games. And the students, who gobbled up tickets for the student section, known as the "The Vault," in a mere 10 minutes on Monday, are focused on the next challenge.

"What I told (the players) today is, 'Yeah, that's great, but nobody cares about that anymore,'" Pujol said of Saturday's thrilling overtime win at Eastern Kentucky and the past 10 games in general. "Now, what matters is what's next. We already enjoyed the last game we played in. We won the game, got a six-hour bus ride home, and in those six hours, you enjoyed the game. Today, when we prepared, now you got to prepare for a team that's hungry to win the league."

Wednesday's opponent, Kennesaw State, enters the final week of the regular season as the ASUN co-leader with Liberty. Kennesaw State (21-8 overall, 13-3 conference) still has work left to win the regular season title. The Owls also have the motivation of coming in off an 83-76 home loss to Queens University. When the basketball is tipped off on Wednesday at 6 p.m., the focus is staying at the top.

"They're going to come into a hunger to stay in that position," said Pujol, whose team has sole possession of fifth place and is a game behind a pair of teams tied for third. "We should be playing with a hunger to knock some teams off so we could host the first-round game. To me, we got to be careful with that confidence. To maintain the confidence, we still got to put in the work. You can't get away from that."

It's not the Lions' approach to look back, but to fully tell the story of this season, you have to look back to the night of Jan. 14 when UNA fell to 9-10 overall and 1-5 in ASUN following a 107-78 loss on the road to Queens.

It might make for a better story to talk about a magic switch that went off after that game. Or perhaps an inspirational speech by the coaching staff or tension-charged players-only meeting.

Truth is a little more simplistic.

"I don't want to devalue our opponents," Pujol said. "I think, No 1, this league is extremely tough. That's for starters. Our first seven games in the league, five were on the road. I think that played a little part in it. You're playing Liberty on the road. You're playing Queens on the road. You're playing Lipscomb on the road. Teams that have been great on their homecourt. It's a helluva league, man, from top to bottom."

The second reason came from within.

"I think if you look carefully, it's kind of been the way we were defending," Pujol said. "It got away from us a little bit at the start of conference play. We weren't defending at the level we needed to be. I thought our guys made a more conscious effort. I think we were scoring all along. We just weren't getting stops and weren't getting the attention on that side of the court. I think our guys have done a tremendous job of locking in, not only  to that side of the floor but to the scouting report defense."

At the forefront of everything that UNA does is a trio of marvelous guards in junior KJ Johnson, sophomore Daniel Ortiz and freshman. They all bring different things to the team. Johnson, the veteran leader, can score in a multitude of ways and is an excellent facilitator and defender. Ortiz is one of the best shooters in the conference. Lane, who plays with grit and poise beyond his age and can play a pass-first style or scoring point guard with equal comfort, should be the conference freshman player of the year.

Put all three's contributions together, totaling 39.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game.

Damian Forrest, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior, is the team's rock inside and 6-foot-6 sophomore Will Soucie holds it all together.

"To me, Will Soucie is the glue of our team," Pujol said. "He's the vocal leader. He's the guy who's going to come out every day, do his job. He's the lunch pail guy. Will's value sometimes doesn't show up in the stat sheet. I can tell you right now, from a defensive standpoint, he's always going to be in the right place, he's always going to help his team be unselfish. The value that Will brings to the team is amazing. If you look at the last three games, what Damian's had to deal with. He's had to deal with three of the best big men in the league. Those guys, the way that they help this team, especially from a defensive standpoint, is ridiculous."

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