Trojans go down again, but not without a fight
The Trojan men’s basketball team suffered its third-straight home loss, this time coming against the UT Arlington Mavericks. The Trojans not only lost the game 75-71, but also lost leading-scorer and rebounder Will Neighbour to injury.
The Trojans have now lost five in a row, dropping to 12-15 overall and 7-8 in conference play, with only three games remaining in the season before the Sun Belt Tournament begins in New Orleans.
The injury to Neighbour comes just after he returned to action after missing two games with a high-ankle sprain. He left the game clutching his shoulder, which was injured two seasons ago.
The first half was close, with no team leading by more than four before the Mavericks hit a three, to stretch it to 39-33 late in the first half. Redshirt freshman Mareik Isom hit a three-pointer to bring the Trojans within three and make the halftime score 39-36.
The second half started with a three-pointer by UT Arlington’s Brandon Edwards, who had 17 points in the game. His three was part of an 11-0 Maverick run that put them ahead by 14, only two and half minutes into the second half. The Trojans trailed by 15 when Neighbour was hurt.
He injured his shoulder on a spectacular put-back dunk, which cut the lead to 13, with about 16 minutes left in the second half.
The sight of one of its leaders being hurt would have been a valid excuse for the team to fold, but it seemed to have the opposite effect.
Sophomore Josh Hagins, who led the team with 21 points, thought seeing a teammate go down was the spark that ignited a comeback that fell just short. The Trojans came all the way back to cut the lead to three at 63-60.
“I really think it was Will getting hurt, seeing him go down, seeing all these guys go down,” Hagins said, naming some of his teammates that have missed games this season. “Having some fight to us and doing it for the people who can’t.”
The team’s resiliency was on display with Hagins and junior Devonte Smith hitting threes and junior Gus Leeper and senior Leroy Isler hitting the offensive boards once Neighbour left the game.
The Trojans just couldn’t overcome the 10 total three-pointers from the Mavericks. UT Arlington shot 41.7 percent from distance (including 5-11 in the second half), while the Trojans shot 38.2 percent from the field and only 25 percent from three.
UALR head coach Steve Shields, never one for excuses, wouldn’t use one this time, but he did like the way the team got back into the game.
“They’re a very good three-point shooting team. I thought our guys did a good job of fighting back,” Shields said.
“This team’s not going to quit. We’ve faced adversity many times, like all teams do, and you really find out the character of your team when you face adverse situations,” he said. “There’s no quit in that locker room.”
The Trojans will play their final road game of the season against Troy on Thursday Feb 26. At press, the extent of Neighbour’s injury was not known. Neighbour was recently named a finalist for the Arkansas Star of Tomorrow award.