BURN THE HORSEThe lack of production at the 4 position continues to hurt UALR this season. It's even caused an already small lineup to play even smaller.
The two primary options this year at the 4 spot are juniors Eric Kibi and Courtney Jackson. They've combined to average 13.0 points and 8.6 rebounds this season. But that production has dropped off in recent games.
Kibi averages 7.0 points and 4.0 rebounds for the season. In the past four games, his average is 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds. Jackson averages 6.0 points and 4.6 rebounds. In the past four games, his averages is 4.0 points and 3.5 rebounds. That combination of 7.3 points and 7.0 rebounds isn't enough production. And it hurts even more if the Trojans are struggling to defend the paint (as they were against Missouri State on Wednesday).
Just to compare, two of the best 4 men in Shields' time at UALR were Richard Hardman and Shane Edwards. In Hardman's senior season, he averaged 10.9 points and 7.3 rebounds. And in Edwards' senior season, he averaged 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds. That doesn't sound like a lot, but those two also brought a lot of intangibles to their games.
Both Hardman and Edwards were better jump shooters and that allowed them more driving options. They were also better free throw shooters.
The struggles have force UALR Coach Steve Shields to play smaller lineups, with senior Alex Garcia-Mendoza sliding down to the 4 spot. This creates two problems. First, Garcia-Mendoza is only 6-3 and struggles to match up with a big, powerful 4. And Garcia-Mendoza's 3 spot then has to be manned by one of UALR's guards, all of which are under 6 feet.
There's still time. Edwards struggled the first half of his junior year and eventually became an All-Sun Belt Conference first teamer.
Hardman's team won Sun Belt East Division championships in both his junior and senior years. Edwards' team won Sun Belt West Division championships in both his junior and senior years. Neither was a coincidence.