Up next: UALR hosts Missouri State on Saturday afternoon


Missouri State (4-3)
at UALR (3-6)
4:30 p.m. Saturday
Jack Stephens Center
Most have been more than patient with the young UALR team this season. Despite a 3-6 record, the schedule hasn’t been easy. And the potential of some of the young talent has been easy to spot.

At some point potential has to turn into results. It’s time for this young team to grow up.

It will get a huge test Saturday afternoon when the UALR Trojans (3-6) host Missouri State (4-3) at 4:30 p.m. at the Jack Stephens Center. Missouri State has lost three-consecutive games under new Coach Paul Lusk, but the Bears have been dominating in their four victories. And they played well in Tuesday’s five-point home loss to Oklahoma State.

Pretty much everything starts and frequently finishes with Bears senior Kyle Weems, who averages 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. Weems is a do-it-all, inside-outside player. At 6-6, he becomes a matchup problem for opponents. Defenses have to make Weems work to get his. He makes tough shots, but he’s only shooting 32 percent from the field and 25.6 from three-point range this season. He’s also got three times as many turnovers as assists. He was really good against Oklahoma State with 24 points and 12 rebounds. He made 7 of 14 field goals and 3 of 6 three-pointers. But he didn’t have an assist and averages less than one assist per game this season. When he gets the ball, he’s looking to score and defenders have to stay in his face.

Missouri State isn’t overly tall. Against the Cowboys, the Bears started only one player taller than Weems in 6-11 senior Caleb Patterson. He’s averaging 12.3 points and 3.4 rebounds. Patterson’s post move is to turn over the left shoulder to shoot a right-hand jump hook. He’s not as effective going the other way to shoot it with the left. And despite his size, he’s not a big-time shot blocker with only 5 so far this season. UALR needs to go at him. There is a little bit of size off the bench in 6-7 Christian Kirk and 6-10 Isaiah Rhine, but both played only four minutes vs. Oklahoma State.

Otherwise,  Missouri State a guard-oriented team. On Wednesday, they also started 6-4 Jarmar Gulley (11.6 ppg), 6-4 Nathan Scheer (4.3 ppg) and 6-1 Michael Bizoukas. Gulley is 15 for 18 from the field the past two games. Bizoukas, a transfer from DePaul, makes things happen. He averages 6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and has 38 assists with just 14 turnovers.

Most of the other minutes are going to 6-0 Anthony Downing, the backup at point, and 6-4 Keith Pickens.

The Bears are getting outrebounded by 1.3 this season and shoot just 32.2 percent from the arc. They are 2-2 on the road this season with victories over Nevada and Arkansas State. The Bears also beat Tulsa, the only common opponent so far, at home.