BURN THE HORSE
BTH MORNING AFTER
UALR Coach Steve Shields walked into the media room at the Jack Stephens Center on Saturday and opened with this: “I love freshmen.”
In the aftermath of UALR’s 72-65 victory over Tulsa, Shields could make a joke about his young team, the youngest in NCAA Division I basketball. But after they nearly blew a 17-point lead before pulling it out in the end, Shields knows it’s going to take more when Sun Belt Conference play resumes.
“I thought our guys did a good job late of finishing it off when some free throws and defensive rebounds. But overall, we had too many turnovers,” Shields said, citing the 18 by the Trojans on Saturday. “We had six turnovers at the half and 12 in the second half. But we’re learning. It’s a very young team but we’re getting better.”
Freshmen Josh Hagins, John Gillon and James White are in the regular minutes rotation. And with Gillon and Hagins handling the point guard duties, there’s going to be some ups and downs.
“That’s freshmen,” Shields said.
And that means Shields will have to live with some mistakes while hoping they get less and less each time out.
“Some of those turnovers were not very good decisions,” he said. “Simple plays on the offensive end.”
Improvement never happens as fast as a coach would want it. But Shields does see his young players starting to mature.
“I think we’ve taken steps over the past two months when you think about 8 of our 10 guys who have played the most minutes are freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process every time we come to the floor.”
UALR Coach Steve Shields looked like a genius when he shuffled the starting lineup and UALR got off to a good start. And he was, sort of. Apparently an unidentified player was late to Saturday morning’s shoot-around. And his punishment was to not get the start. Shields wouldn’t identify who the culprit was. But sophomores Ben Dillard and Taggart Lockhart replaced junior Leroy Isler and freshman James White in Saturday’s lineup.
“We had to adjust one because … I don’t know what happened. Hopefully we learn from it and move on,” Shields said.
Welcome back Gus Leeper to the UALR lineup. The redshirt sophomore made 1 of 2 field-goal attempts in seven minutes. He made his first shot, seconds after entering the game, and had a pretty spectacular looking hook shot go in and out a bit later. Leeper had not played since the season opener.
STAT OF THE GAME
24-16. UALR outscored Tulsa 24-16 at the free throw line.
Turning point: UALR had 18 turnovers. Not good. But after turning it over 32 times against Cincinnati, there was some improvement. Namely, the improvement came in handling the press utilized by Tulsa. Grade: C.
Set the alarm: UALR got off to a great start and built a first-half lead. The Trojans never trailed on Saturday. Grade: A.
Run and gun: No doubt Tulsa worked on transition defense during their week off. UALR was only able to get five fast-break points and wasn’t able to beat the Golden Hurricane by running very often. Grade: D.
UALR freshman point guard John Gillon had 1 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. He also had four turnovers but going 4 of 7 from the field and 3 of 3 from the three-point line makes up for it.
UALR had only 6 offensive reobunds and got out rebounded 40-37 for the game. Tulsa held an 11-7 advantage in second-chance points.
You probably thought I was going free throws. Or officiating. But the National Anthem was brutal. Great voice. But she went Carl Lewis on the lyrics.
UALR entered the game as a 2-point favorite and covered the line. The Trojans are 4-0 this season straight up as a Vegas favorite.
Everyone picked UALR, making everyone a winner. RealTime RPI still leads the overall standings, although OmniRankings remains undefeated.
UALR hosts Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Jack Stephens Center. Louisiana Tech pounded UALR last month in Ruston. The Bulldogs started the season 7-1 but have lost two of their past three. The losses came on the road to Southland Conference schools Northwestern State and McNeese State.