“It was an overall good effort and we had to have it on the road tonight,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our senior leadership and overall energy level tonight.”
UALR is now 4-2 in the Sun Belt Conference going into Saturday’s nationally televised game at Florida Atlantic.
UALR shot 52 percent from the field and outrebounded Florida International 37-26 on Thursday. That helped nullify Florida International’s 29 of 33 free throw shooting.
Alex Garcia-Mendoza and Matt Mouzy each had 15 points to lead UALR. Chuck Guy had 12 points and Solomon Bozeman added 11 points.
Derek Bails and Courtney Jackson each had eight rebounds. Jackson was also the lead player in a cast that held Florida International’s Eric Frederick to 4 points.
“We started with Courtney on Frederick. He’s much smaller, but Frederick can step out and shoot the 3. Courtney did a nice job tonight, getting some contests. Alex guarded him a little bit, Montrell [Thornton], Gus [Leeper], Marlo (Marlon Louzeiro),” Shields said.
UALR took control of the game from the start, building a 43-28 halftime lead. But that margin melted away early in the second half as FIU closed the gap to four points within the first five minutes of play.
A big three-pointer by Mouzy increased UALR’s lead to 61-53 with 7:29 left, and then Thornton scored on a slam dunk that came sandwiched between two Florida International turnovers for a 63-56 lead.
Garcia-Mendoza hit a couple of clutch shots around the lane to keep UALR’s slight cushion and Mouzy drained another three-pointer for a 70-61 lead.
Mouzy, Bozeman and Guy all then hit free throws late as UALR held on for the victory.