UALR Gameday: Trojans need to beware on upset Sunday

8:30 p.m. tonight
Summit Arena, Hot Springs
UALR students Free with ID
Children under 17 are $1
Beware UALR. It’s upset Sunday in the Sun Belt Tournament.

Last year on Sunday night, Western Kentucky upset Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas upset Florida Atlantic and UALR upset Arkansas State. There’s no reason to think those types of upsets aren’t on the table tonight.

UALR opens Sun Belt Conference play at 8:30 p.m. against Western Kentucky. The Trojans finished 12-4 in Sun Belt play and won the West Division championship. WKU has won three-consecutive games for the first time this season.

I feel pretty much the same way about this year’s UALR team as I did last year. I think they could beat anybody in the Sun Belt Conference this weekend. I also think they could lose to anybody at the Sun Belt Tournament. The one exception is that I didn’t think last year’s team had the ability to put four-consecutive victories together.

This year’s team only has to win three. But if they don’t get by WKU tonight, the number of games won’t matter.

Keep an eye on WKU’s Nigel Snipes tonight. Last night in his press conference, WKU Coach Ray Harper said he expects the matchups to be in Snipes’ favor and for him to have a big game. He didn’t do much in the first meeting, but WKU may have a trick up their sleeve.

BTH Keys
THE START: One thing I think is difficult for teams receiving byes is the pregame ceremony during their first game at the Sun Belt Tournament. Before tonight’s game, UALR will receive its West Division championship trophy, D’Andre Williams and Will Neighbour will receive their all-Sun Belt awards, and UALR’s academic all-Sun Belt selections will be announced. It’s a major distraction and one WKU won’t have to deal with (they received their awards last night). UALR doesn’t need to dig itself a hole early.

COURT TIME: Courtney Jackson might have been UALR’s best player down the stretch and he’ll need to play big again tonight. The senior, who missed last year’s Sun Belt Tournament run due to injury, had 14 points and 5 rebounds in the first meeting vs. WKU. A big game tonight from CJ would help.

TURN, TURN, TURN: Teams that turn the ball over more lose more frequently. I know, nothing mind-blowing there. UALR has the ability to keep its turnovers down. And when they do, they’re much better. One thing the Trojans can’t afford are some of the empty possessions (unforced turnovers, contested three-point attempts early in shot clock) that we’ve seen in some recent games.

FREE MONEY: With the exception of the UALR-WKU game two years ago, free throws are generally at a premium in Sun Belt Tournament play. UALR has been a streaky free throw shooting team. When the Trojans get there, they need to make them.

Vegas says
We’re still waiting on the Las Vegas line for tonight’s game. We’d expect UALR to go in as a slight favorite.

  • Jeff Sagarin (19-10): UALR 72, WKU 67
  • CBS (19-10): UALR 67, WKU 66
  • The Sports Network (18-11):
RealTime RPI (16-13) and Omni Ranking (15-9) have not been updating. OmniRankings does have UALR advancing in its Sun Belt bracket.