Trojans set record in blowout
The Trojans set a school record by hitting 17 3-pointers in beating the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 81-50 in front of a crowd of 2,528 Thursday night at the Jack Stephens Center. The 31-point margin of victory is the largest against a Sun Belt Conference opponent in three years, when the Trojans defeated Arkansas State 82-52 during the 2007-08 season.
UALR coach Steve Shields was suspended for the game for arguing with officials after a game against Denver on Jan. 2. Shields was asking why a foul wasn’t called when Trojan guard Solomon Bozeman attempted a potential game-winning shot in the 72-70 loss to the Pioneers at Magness Arena. Trojan assistant coach Joe Kleine made his coaching debut Thursday as the interim coach in Shields’ absence and did not disappoint.
“I just want to say he got a raw deal,” Kleine said after the win against Monroe. “I probably shouldn’t say that, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime in my opinion. Our guys rallied around that and we rallied around the fact that, it sounds corny, but there was a lot of, ‘We got to go out and play for coach Shields tonight.’”
Rally the Trojans did. Solomon Bozeman scored 26 points, 18 in the first half, on 8-11 from the field and 6-7 from 3-point range. The Trojans shot 54 percent as a team versus the Warhawks’ 35 percent.
“We were just motivated tonight,” Bozeman said. “We didn’t have our head coach [and] we just wanted to come out and get a big win for him. Tonight we played this game for him. We had a lot of energy tonight.”
The Trojans (10-9, 2-2 Sun Belt Conference) led by 15 points at halftime (43-28) and shot 10-15 from the 3-point arc, finishing 17-26 for the game. The Warhawks (5-13, 0-4 SBC) got within 14 points on R.J. McCray’s 18-foot jump shot with 14:58 remaining in the second half, but never got any closer.
Freshman Daylon “Chucky” Guy hit the first 3-pointer of the second half for UALR with 12:59 remaining to bump the lead to 55-37 and finished the game with 15 points (5-8 3-pointers) and three assists.
“Credit is to the players,” Kleine said. “The threes they shot were good threes. We weren’t jacking it. Our guys got comfortable and got into a rhythm. We’re just very fortunate that they shot the ball that well. That’s incredible.”
The Trojans hit 13-25 3-pointers in their previous win against Troy. In the past two games, UALR has hit 30-51 threes (59%) and are currently fourth in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at a 43 percent clip. They are averaging 6.9 3-point makes a game.
Junior forward Courtney Jackson supplied solid post play for UALR finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds while senior guard Alex Garcia-Mendoza had 10 points, shooting 2-2 from behind the arc. Senior guard Matt Mouzy hit 3-7 threes and had nine points for the game.
Forward Lawrence Gilbert finished with 17 points on 6-11 shooting to lead the Warhawks.
“I’m glad we got the win,” Kleine said. “Our guys played great. They played inspired and they played inspired for [Shields]. I think a lot of these stats that you see down here are from him and how much he means to the guys. They played their butts off for him tonight. I was very proud of them for that.”