Men’s basketball team can’t get over the hump on Senior Day
A furious second-half comeback by the UALR Trojan men’s basketball team ended with the team coming up short, as the team lost 66-65 to the ULM Warhawks on Senior Night, Mar. 8, at the Jack Stephens Center.
The Trojans came back from an 11-point halftime deficit, but couldn’t convert on a pair of chances in the game’s closing seconds. Sophomore Josh Hagins led the team with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range.
ULM hit six three-pointers in the first half on 50 percent shooting, something that UALR men’s basketball head coach Steve Shields thought was part of the reason for the first half deficit.
“I thought we dug ourselves a hole in the first half, allowing them to be a little bit too comfortable on the perimeter,” Shields said.
“When we’ve been good, we’ve had an urgency and a passion to defend and that starts with transition defense and when we don’t, we dig ourselves a hole as we did tonight.”
The second half was a free-throw-shooting contest for the Warhawks as they went to the line 17 times to the Trojan’s eight. The second half free throw disparity aided ULM in holding off the UALR comeback attempt.
The loss drops the Trojans to 14-16 overall and 9-9 in the SBC standings. Next up will be the SBC tournament in New Orleans, where they will be the #4 seed and face Troy in the first round Thursday, Mar.13
The Warhawks’ 11-point halftime lead swelled to 16 in the opening minutes of the second half prior to the Trojans fighting to get back into the game. Hagins and Leeper combined for the next 10 points for the Trojans. Leeper hit a bucket off a nice post-up move and after a ULM free throw, Hagins hit back-to-back three-pointers and then fed Leeper on the next possession for a dunk that cut the lead to 54-47. The teams exchanged baskets for the next few possessions.
Hagins, who also had a team-high seven assists, hit freshman Mareik Isom for his second three-pointer of the game. That cut the lead to 58-55 with 6:36 left in the second half. ULM scored to go up by five again, but Hagins hit a step-back three-pointer that made it 60-58.
ULM went on another run that stretched the lead back out to eight points, but once again UALR battled back and after two free throws from senior Leroy Isler, the Trojans were behind by only three at 66-63.
ULM’s Jayon James missed four free throws in a row in the game’s final minute, including an air ball that missed the rim by about two feet to the right to the delight of the Trojan crowd. James’ misses kept the Trojans alive in the closing seconds, but after a pair of free throws by junior Ben Dillard making it 66-65, the Trojans failed to convert down the stretch.
“The thing that we’ve got to take from this though, is you’ve got to have an urgency from the start. Anybody can beat anybody, but you can also be beat by anybody on a given night, if your mindset is not correct,” Shields said.
It’s now up to the team to bring that mindset from the start, because the next loss will be the last of the season for the Trojans as they prepare for the SBC Tournament in New Orleans.
“From this point on, the intensity raises,” Hagins said.
The Trojans go into the tournament as the #4 seed. They will face Troy in the first round; the season series is tied 1-1, with each team winning on the other’s home court.
As part of the Senior Night activities, seniors Will Neighbour and Leroy Isler were honored with framed jerseys in a ceremony before the tip. Isler had 10 points and 7 rebounds in the contest. Neighbour has been sidelined with a shoulder injury. His availability for the SBC tournament is not known.