UALR Trojans take on the Bobcats and survive
The Trojan men’s basketball team defended its home court while playing shorthanded Thursday Jan. 23. With players missing the game because of various reasons, UALR used a second half surge to secure the victory against Texas State 69-64.
Both teams shot better than 46 percent from the field, but the Trojans doubled up on the Bobcats from three-point range hitting six shots on 40 percent shooting. The Trojans also displayed improvement on the free-throw line, hitting 19 out of 22 attempts (86.4 percent).
Two regular starters Leroy Isler (team suspension) and James White (injury) missed the game at the Jack Stephens Center, where the Trojans are 5-2 so far this season.
UALR senior Will Neighbour continued his strong play this season by scoring a game-high 21 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Neighbour’s aggressive inside play resulted in 11 attempts at the free-throw line, where he made nine.
The play of junior DeVonte Smith, however, was the steadying force of the game.
The Trojan point guard had 17 points on a perfect shooting night going 6-6 from the field, 2-2 from the three-point line and 3-3 from the free throw stripe. Smith had only 2 credited assists, but he controlled the flow of the game and also had zero turnovers and several timely baskets in the second half to help the Trojans pull away.
UALR head basketball coach Steve Shields liked the second half effort of the team.
“I’m really proud of our guys, especially in the second half. I didn’t think that we came with the passion and the energy that we needed in the first half against a very good, well-coached team,” Shields said.
“I thought we were just a little too passive in the first half.”
The combination of big men Neighbour and junior Gus Leeper proved to be an effective combination against the undersized Texas State team. This was something that the team wanted to exploit.
“It was in the game plan that we needed to play inside-out definitely because of our height advantage and we executed pretty well,” Leeper said.
Leeper, who had 11 points and 3 rebounds before fouling out with 21 seconds remaining in game, was slated to start but chose to come off the bench, which has been his customary role. He did, however, start the second half of the contest.
The Trojans trailed 31-27 at the half, but outscored the Bobcats by nine in the second half for the win.
“We did a better job pressuring the ball in the second half then we did in the first half,” Shields said.
“Every win brings confidence with basketball teams,” he said. “Our guys have shown a lot of growth as a family since day one. I think we’re becoming a lot more together. I think this team doesn’t care who gets the credit and I think that’s a credit to our senior leaders.”
The Trojans are 10-10 on the season and 5-3 in the conference after a 77-49 loss to Arkansas State. They will face Louisiana at home Thursday Jan. 30.