Trojans sit alone atop the West
The Trojans are in first place in the Sun Belt Conference Western Division standings after a 64-57 win over Denver on Saturday, January 28 at the Jack Stephens Center.
“We knew we had to come out with some pop,” said freshman guard Ben Dillard. “We came out with a lot of energy and I don’t think they were ready for it.”
The UALR bench outscored Denver’s bench 28-5, led by Dillard who had 14 points, 11 in the first half, on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor and 2-of-2 from behind the three-point line.
The Pioneers started the game on a quick 6-0 run before UALR (10-13, 7-2 Sun Belt) countered and knotted it at 12 with 9:32 left in the first half.
Denver (16-6, 6-3 Sun Belt) came in ranked 12th nationally in three-point shooting percentage and leading the Sun Belt at 41 percent. They finished 6-of-20 (30 percent) for the game.
They also committed 17 turnovers versus just eight for the Trojans.
Senior guard D’Andre Williams led all Trojans with 15 points and five assists and was quick to praise the Trojan bench as being the difference in the game.
“Our bench brought the energy today,” he said. “We came in with some energy, but the bench, when they came in that’s when the game started.”
Senior forward Courtney Jackson had 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting and a team leading eight rebounds.
Head coach Steve Shields said it was the mental attitude his team brought to the floor that made him most proud.
“I thought we were sharp and crisp yesterday in practice,” he said. “We had good focus today in practice as well, before the game.”
UALR led by five, 29-24 at the break, led by Dillard’s 11 points.
The Pioneers came out in the second half and cut the lead to one at 33-32 with 16:37 left to play.
UALR countered with a 13-4 run over the next five minutes to lead 46-36 with 11:17 left in the game
Shields said he was happy with how his team responded to the Pioneers effort to get back in the game.
“I thought our guys answered the run, when it had to be answered,” he said.
Williams had five big points down the stretch, two coming on a fastbreak that started with a Trojan steal on the other end.
“We stayed together as a team and we finished the game off,” he said.
With the victory over Denver, UALR now holds the tiebreaker, having already defeated the Pioneers at their court in December.
Shields stressed the need for his players to avoid getting complacent and maintain the edge that has them in this position.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “We’re nowhere near the end and our side is going to be a bunched up race all the way through.”
The Trojans have a week off before playing the University of Louisiana at Monroe on Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Jack Stephens Center.