UALR led 40-39 at halftime and had just outrebounded the much bigger Notre Dame team 18-17 for 20 minutes of play. To complete the upset, they’d likely have to do more of the same.
“It will be interesting to see if Little Rock can hang on the boards because that is where I think Notre Dame might be able to wear them out,” Larrivee said.
“We’ll have to see if they do tire, but I think it’s a well-conditioned team,” Thompson said.
Newell didn’t make a big speech. He just told his team to keep it up.
“He told us it’s not over. They’re going to come out and try to pound us. They think it’s a fluke, a lucky half. We just need to keep playing like we were,” Springer said.
Notre Dame got the ball to start the second half and Barlow shot an air ball on the first possession. Going for the rebound, Clarke was called for a foul. Barlow then made a strong move to the basket to give the Irish a 41-40 lead. UALR also went inside with Clarke drawing Dolan’s fourth foul on the Trojans’ first possession. Clarke made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game 41-41.
Notre Dame took leads of 45-41 and 47-43 when a potential problem came up. Jackson hit a jump shot to cut the lead to 47-45, but on the rebound, Barlow leveled Worthy with a forearm to the jaw that appeared to knock Worthy out. He laid motionless in the lane.
“He’s hurting right there,” Thompson said.
“Look at the grimace on his face,” Larrivee said. “He’s kind of groggy as he heads back to the bench.”
Smith replaced Worthy in the game and UALR kept possession on the non-shooting foul.
“Pete Myers has not really been involved with the offense in the second half,” Larrivee noted.
“They need to get him going,” Thompson said.
Myers held the ball on the outside, then hit a jump shot when his defender backed off, tying the game 47-47.
“And there he is from the outside,” Larrivee said.
The Trojans stayed in the 2-3 zone, daring Notre Dame to shoot from the outside. Paul Springer’s scoop layup tied the game at 49-49, the 15th tie of the game. Then Worthy stole the ball from David Rivers and Clarke scored on a spin move for a 51-49 UALR lead. Notre Dame continued to get inside shots. Dolan scored on the inside and Royal powered his way to a layup and a 53-51 Irish lead.
Clarke tied it 53-53 when he got past Royal and was fouled, hitting two free throws.
“I’m impressed with him,” Thompson said of Clarke.
“He’s a wide body kid. He has good quickness for the size he carries around,” Larrivee said.
The teams continued to trade leads with Notre Dame taking a 57-56 lead on an inside bucket from Stevenson. UALR re-took the lead on the next possession.
“Myers on the roll for two,” Larrivee said as Myers scored with a good move to give the Trojans a 58-57 lead with 10:37 to play. That basket also started a UALR run.
Clarke hit two more free throws, giving him 10 of 12 for the game.
“I’m told he’s a 37 percent free throw shooter,” Larrivee said.
He can feel it from there tonight,” Thompson said.
His teammates weren’t surprised.
“He was a gamer. And when he got on the line, he hit them. We didn’t look at that as a fluke,” Springer said. “That’s just him.”
After a media timeout, Springer hit a 12-foot bank shot for a 62-57 UALR lead. Rivers answered with a 17-footer at the other end but the UALR run continued. Clarke hit two free throws and Myers scored again for a 66-59 lead, forcing Phelps to call a timeout.
And during that timeout, something started to change -- everybody not associated with Notre Dame was seemingly becoming a vocal UALR fan. Michigan and Iowa fans already disliked the Irish. The Iowa State and North Carolina State fans joined in as well. And out of the timeout, every Trojan basket brought a louder cheer from the crowd.
“This place is going wild,” Larrivee said.
Rivers and Clarke scored as UALR kept a 68-61 lead. Then as Rivers, who was starting to get into a good shooting rhythm, cut to the basket, Myers stepped in front of him and took the charge.
“It was textbook defense,” Thompson said.
At the other end, Kempton responded by blocking Myers’ shot, but Clarke grabbed the rebound and scored for a 70-61 Trojans’ lead.
“He’s just been fantastic,” Thompson said.
Seven minutes remained. That was an eternity for UALR. And Notre Dame showed no signs of quitting. Kempton scored on the inside, Barlow scored on an alley-oop slam dunk and Rivers pulled up and hit a bank shot for a 70-67 score. Then after Clarke mishandled a pass in the lane, Myers hit the floor and tied up the ball with Royal. As they got up, Myers and Dolan had to be separated.
“Run the offense,” Newell screamed from the bench.
UALR kept possession but was called for five seconds after Springer, ,who tried to call timeout, failed to get the ball in.
“Oh my God,” Newell screamed from the bench to the official. “Get out of here.”
With Notre Dame’s fans making their most noise of the night, Rivers hit a jump shot from the top of the jump circle for a 70-69 score with 4:49 to play.
Jackson made it 72-69 with a 15-foot jump shot from the right wing, but Rivers, who had hit four of his past five shots, hit an 18-footer over Worthy for a 72-71 score. Two free throws by Myers made it a three-point game again, but Scott Hicks answered this time for a 74-73 score with 3:54 to play.
It seemed as if UALR was just hanging on. And when the ball went through the netting on Hicks’ shot, Dolan grabbed it and took two steps down court, forcing officials to blow the whistle. The clock was stopped and the Irish were warned not to hold the ball again. It was an unintentionally key play for Notre Dame.
As the Trojans tried to inbound the ball, another five-second call was levied against UALR. The official doing the counting only moved his arm four times and five seconds definitely didn’t elapse, but Notre Dame still got the ball. And the Irish quickly took the lead at 75-74. Royal inbounded the ball to Rivers, who gave it right back for an easy score from the left block.
Then as UALR inbounded the ball, Royal nearly stole it before stepping out of bounds and leaping into the crowd behind the Notre Dame bench.
As Phelps pleaded for a call, Newell had seen enough and called timeout. The dream was slipping away and something had to be done quickly.