Trojans fall short after late comeback against Middle Tennessee
The UALR men’s basketball team fell short against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, after a late game comeback attempt Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Jack Stephens Center.
Turnovers plagued both teams. Middle Tennessee had 19 turnovers while UALR had 17. The Trojans, now with a season record of 15 -12, were able to hold Middle Tennessee, who have only lost four games this season (23 -4), to 40.8 percent from the field. Most of the credit can be attributed to their man-to-man defensive strategy.
The Trojans were outscored at the free throw line, hitting only 59.1 percent while the Blue Raiders shot 82.8 percent. MT’s bench contributed 21 points outperforming the UALR bench, which put up 16 points.
The Trojans were led by Sophomores Ben Dillard and Michael Javes who each scored 12 points. Javes blocked three shots on the night, tying Gilbert Maxwell’s 1979-81 record for sixth place on UALR’s all-time blocks list with 75.
There was a battle in the paint between Javes and Jason Jones of MT. The 21 fouls in the first half speak to the aggressive nature of the game.
UALR’s largest lead came at the beginning of the game when they were up by 3 points at the 16:06 mark. The team went into half time down by 10 points with the score 18 -28.
Junior Will Neighbor, UALR’s leading scorer this season, was well guarded and went scoreless the entire first half. However, he did manage to chip in a game high eight rebounds and finish with six points. Junior Leroy Isler also contributed, grabbing four rebounds and scoring eight points.
Emotions flurried early in the second half as Steve Shields, UALR’s head coach, yelled at a referee after a double technical was called on Neighbor and MT’s Marcos Knight. Knight led the Blue Raiders with a game high of 15 points.
At the 10:10 mark of the second half, MT had their largest lead of the game at 15 points. The game began to turn around when Neighbor scored his first points of the night with a fade away jumper near the free throw line. On the next possession, the Trojans made a steal and Neighbor saved the ball tossing it to his teammate who made the lay up that brought the game back within reach at 40-49.
A big time three pointer was made by freshman Josh Hagins, followed by another three pointer on the next possession by teammate John Gillon putting the Trojans within 6 points with the score 48 -54.
Gillon was fouled as he went for a lay up in the last few minutes of the game. After making his first shot at the line, he apparently missed his second free throw on purpose in order to gain an extra possession. The Trojans recovered the ball and freshman Kemy Osse knocked down a three pointer near half court, opening a small window of opportunity for UALR.
The Trojans quickly fouled Raymond Citron who was perfect from the free throw line after making his final two shots to seal the win for MT. The Trojans finished the night 61-66 looking ahead to their next game on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Miami against Florida International.