Trojans falter at home against final non-conference opponent
After six lead changes and nine different instances in which the score was tied, the UALR Trojans and Louisiana Tech Bulldogs needed every second to decide who would prevail in this non-conference match-up.
LA Tech began the game by going on a 16 to 7 run. UALR had difficulties adjusting to the different defenses the Bulldogs were orchestrating after each made basket. The Bulldogs were alternating between a 2-2-1 full court press and a man-to-man full court press, which made it difficult for the Trojans to get into an offensive rhythm.
Throughout the first half, the Trojans were unable to contain a hot-handed shooter for LA Tech. That player turned out to be Raheem Appleby, a Jacksonville, Ark. native, who torched the Trojans for 14 points in the first 20 minutes of action.
UALR had difficulties inside the paint throughout the first half.
The Trojans lost the rebounding battle by a considerable margin. LA Tech grabbed 25 rebounds while UALR pulled down 15 in the first half. Of those 25 rebounds, 11 of them were on offense and allowed the Bulldogs to score 15 second chance points.
As time expired in the first half, UALR found a way to secure a small 42-39 lead over LA Tech.
The second half was more of the same for both teams. Each side played tough, aggressive, hard-nosed basketball. The aggressive play was noticed by the three-man officiating crew. In fact, the two teams were playing so aggressively that by the time the final buzzer sounded, the referees called 50 fouls between the two schools.
With just over 3 minutes to play in the game, UALR found themselves up 69-65 after freshman Josh Hagins netted a two-point basket. After the Trojan basket, the Bulldogs raced down the court only to find junior Will Neighbour near the basket to send Kenneth Smith’s shot into the stands. The Bulldogs opted for a time out.
LA Tech began to chip away until they found the score tied at 69 with 2:15 left in the game. It was Keyon McNeail, a Conway, Ark. native, who hit a critical three point shot to break open the lead for the Bulldogs.
With 1:08 left in the game, freshman John Gillon hit two free throws to get within one point of the Bulldogs, 73-74.
The Bulldogs had possession, but it was Smith who dribbled the ball off of his foot and gave the ball back to the Trojans with 53 seconds remaining in the game. Steve Shields, head coach for UALR, signaled for time out to talk things over.
The Trojans ran a play that set sophomore Taggart Lockhart up for a jump shot on the right side of the lane near the free throw line. He had a clear look at the basket, but the shot was no good. The Bulldogs grabbed the rebound with 16.2 seconds remaining in the game and the Trojans fouled immediately in order to stop the clock.
Appleby was at the line for LA Tech and attempted his first free throw as the crowd of about 3,700 roared to distract him. It worked. His first free throw was no good. As Appleby readied his second attempt the crowd erupted again, but to no avail; the second free throw was good and LA Tech found themselves up 75-73.
The Trojans passed the ball into play and the time began to evaporate. The UALR players were running a designed play that allowed Gillon to drive from the right side of the court and end up on the left side of the basket. As Gillon approached the basket and the defense collapsed to him, he quickly dished the ball to an awaiting James White. In a split second, White willed his body towards the basket, releasing the ball in mid-air as a whistle blew and the basketball rimming out.
The ball may not have went through the hoop, but a foul was called against LA Tech and White went to the line to shoot two free throws with 1.6 seconds left in the game. White’s first attempt was no good. Shields called for timeout to decide what the team should do. It seems Shields told White to intentionally miss the second free throw in order to give the team an opportunity to tie the game with a quick put back.
White’s second free throw went sailing through the air, arching more than usual. The shot was no good and the ball ricocheted towards Hagins, who had positioned himself on the left wing of the three point line.
Hagins quickly grabbed the ball, leaned in and shot; however, the ball did not quite reach the basket and time expired.
This is the first time the UALR men’s basketball team has lost at Jack Stephens Center since Feb. 23, 2012.
Gillon lead the Trojans in scoring with 15 points, followed by junior Leroy Isler with 11 points.
After the game, Shields simply summed up his teams woes with two statistics. “The difference in the game: we give up 19 offensive rebounds, you have 13 turnovers in the second half- a lot of those were unforced turnovers.”
Shields acknowledged the passion and determination his players displayed against LA Tech. “I thought we saw some fight in our young guys,” Shields said. “We continue to play very hard. It’s still a learning experience and you’ve got to continue to get better in those situations.”
The Trojans are now 8-5 this season. LA Tech improves its record to 9-3.
Next up for the Trojans will be a game played in Mobile, Ala., against the University of South Alabama, a Sun Belt Conference opponent.