Rebounding gave Troy additional opportunities as UALR tried to close out game

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The final game statistics showed that Troy only shot 38.1 percent from the field against UALR on Thursday. That would indicate a pretty solid defensive effort.
And from a defensive field goal percentage standpoint, it was – at least in the final minutes as UALR rallied for a 58-56 victory over Troy.
But Troy was still shooting 43 percent late in the second half. Then they made only 1 of their final 9 field goal attempts. That dropped them down to the 38 percent final total.
UALR definitely turned up the heat defensively down the stretch. But they didn’t bring the rebounding with it. Troy got four additional opportunities in the final minutes after offensive rebounds.
After Will Neighbour tied the game at 53-53 with a free throw with 2:39 left, UALR had to get defensive stops. This didn’t happen a few minutes earlier when the Trojans had taken a brief lead.
Thanks to two offensive rebounds, Troy got three shots on its next possession before John Gillon pulled down the rebound.
UALR executed perfectly at the other end. Leroy Isler passed to Neighbour who turned and hit a short jumper for a 55-53 lead with 1:05 left.
This time UALR got a much cleaner stop. Troy’s Denota Jethroe missed a three-pointer and Josh Hagins grabbed the rebound. He got the ball to Gillon who was fouled with 32 seconds left. Gillon hit both free throws for a 57-53 lead and UALR got the stop it needed at the other end when Jethroe missed a jumper. But as Hagins grabbed the rebound he tried to pass and it resulted in a turnover. Seconds later, Troy’s Williams nailed a three-pointer and the score was 57-56 with 10 seconds left.
After a timeout, UALR got the ball inbounds to Hagins, who was fouled. He made the first free throw but missed the second for a 58-56 score.
UALR had only committed three team fouls in the second half and could foul Troy three times without sending Troy to the free throw line. But UALR didn’t foul and Troy got off a game-tying shot. It hit the front of the rim and was no good as UALR held on.
UALR Coach Steve Shields wasn’t asked about the fouls to give in the postgame press conference. We don’t know what instructions he gave the players in the final seconds.
But in reality, it doesn’t matter. UALR won and improved to 1-0 in the Sun Belt Conference.
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Up next: UALR (5-3, 1-0 Sun Belt) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (0-3, 0-1)

BURN THE HORSE
WHEN 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE Jack Stephens Center, Little Rock
ALL-TIME SERIES UALR leads 12-8, including 7-4 in Little Rock
LAST MEETING UALR 70, ULM 66, Feb. 4, 2012 at Little Rock
VEGAS SAYS UALR by 12
RADIO KHLR-FM 106.7 in Little Rock (Ray Tucker, Pat Bradley)
TV None
TICKETS Available at the Stephens Center box office or by calling (501) 565-UALR. Prices: End zone ($7 adults/$5 children); Level 200 ($12); Level 100 ($18); Leather ($24); Club ($38).
WEBCAST www.ualrtrojans.com or UALR Athletics Mobile Phone App

POSSIBLE STARTERS

ULM
NO PLAYER                       HT      YR   P     PPG   RPG
4      R.J. McCray               6-2      JR    G     7.7      1.3
10   Amos Olatayo          6-4      JR    G     16.3    6.7
1      Jayon James             6-6      JR    F      7.7      6.0
23   Millaun Brown         6-7      JR    F      8.3      4.7
35   Trey Lindsey             6-7      SO  F      0.7      1.7
PPG 52.3; FG% 38.4; 3P% 24.4; FT%55.6; RPG 30.0; TOPG 17.3
COACH Keith Richard (10-52 at ULM)
UALR
NO PLAYER                       HT      YR   P     PPG   RPG
2      John Gillon                6-0      FR   G     11.4    2.8
13   Leroy Isler                 6-5      JR    G     7.5      5.4
33   James White            6-8      FR   GF  10.1    5.9
53   Will Neighbour        6-10   JR    F      12.9    6.5
44   Michael Javes          6-10   SO  F      4.5      3.6
PPG 64.2; FG% 41.0; 3P% 34.4; FT% 64.2; RPG 35.0; TOPG 14.1
COACH Steve Shields (152-131 at UALR)

AND ONES

Louisiana-Monroe lost  65-54 at home to Western Kentucky on Thursday. That was only the third game of the season for the Warhawks. UALR’s Thursday game was their eighth. … While ULM starts a pair of 6-7 players they don’t have any more size coming off the bench. … The Warhawks don’t shoot many threes. Only 25 percent of their shots come from beyond the arc.



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BTH Ratings: Lockhart, Isler combo carries UALR vs. Troy

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Credit the UALR coaching staff for going with what was working last night. And what was working was the combination of sophomore Taggart Lockhart and junior Leroy Isler playing at the same time.

BTH UALR RATINGS

See full chart in right column of this page
Lockhart finished a team best +11 while Isler was a +8 as UALR rallied to beat Troy 58-56 in the Sun Belt opener for both teams. The two were actually a +14 when on the court at the same time.
With Lockhart in the game, UALR outscored Troy 46-35. With Isler in, UALR outscored Troy 55-47. But with both on the court, UALR outscored Troy 46-32.
The rest of the top five included:
  • John Gillon +8 (47-39)
  • Will Neighbour +2 (54-52)
  • Josh Hagins +1 (28-27)
Note that with both Hagins and Gillon on the court at the same time UALR was a +7.
Neighbour continues to lead most of the season plus/minus categories. He’s at +33 for the season, +41 in the past five games, +.14 per minute played and +4.1 per game played.

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UALR redshirt freshman walk-on Wilmath no longer on team

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We don't really have a lot of details, but it appears UALR freshman guard Casey Wilmath has been dismissed from the team.

Wilmath was a walk-on from Searcy. He redshirted last year and played in only two games this year.

Wilmath was the first player off the bench in the season-opening victory against Tennessee-Martin. And he made the only shot of his college career, a three-pointer, shortly after that. He played five minutes in mop-up time against Louisiana Tech but has not played since.

He did not accompany the team to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for games last week in the Hoops for Hope Classic.

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BTH UALR Rewind: UALR struggles, but finds a way to win on Thursday

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Good teams have to find a way to win games they have no business winning. UALR did just that on Thursday night, rallying to beat Troy 58-56 in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams.

BTH UALR REWIND

UALR seemed uninspired and underperformed much of the night. But when they had to have it, they had it to beat Troy. And at the end of the season, wins and losses are really all that matters.
But it doesn’t mean there weren’t things that shouldn’t be attention getters.
UALR defended the three-point shot well most of the night. But Troy’s undersized lineup was able to get to the paint to score with ease. And at the other end, UALR was unable to utilize its size advantage to convert the easy shots in the paint.

"It goes back on me. That's my job to keep our guys on edge. Obviously we weren't on edge tonight," UALR Coach Steve Shields said.

Be sure and watch Coach Shields in the postgame press conference below. He was as intense as he's been in one of those in a long time. And he's really been pretty patient with his young team this year. It sounds like patients is running thin.
UALR was better at both ends in the second half. Troy made 9 of 13 two point shots in the first half and only 9 of 28 in the second half as they all but abandoned the three-point shot.
And Will Neighbour, who made only 1 of his first 7 shots, made 4 of his final six. That included his turn-around jumper that gave UALR the lead for good in the final minutes.
It was as ugly as can be. But it was a win. And that’s all that matters.

BURN NOTICE

Solid game for sophomore Taggart Lockhart on Thursday. Lockhart finished with 11 points, making 4 of 5 field goals, 2 of 3 three-pointers and his only free throw attempt.

STAT OF THE GAME

UALR went to the free throw line 22 times while Troy went only twice. UALR outscored Troy 14-2 in free throws.

KEYS REVISITED

Threes please: UALR was solid defensively around the three-point line, holding Troy to 6 of 22 for 27 percent. Grade: A.
Glass cleaner: UALR only held a 38-36 rebound advantage and gave up 15 offensive rebounds. Grade: D.
Win the four: Will Neighbour got off to a slow start but finished with a double-double on the night. Grade: B.

THE GOOD

Junior Leroy Isler finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds and 1 blocked shot.

THE BAD

Sophomore Michael Javes was 0-3 from the field in 11 first-half minutes. He didn’t see the court in the second half.

THE UGLY

Troy got 14 offensive rebounds to UALR’s 12. That kept Troy ahead much of the night.

VEGAS, BABY

UALR entered as a nine-point favorite. That means those that placed a bet on UALR came away losers on Thursday. UALR is 3-0 overall and 2-1 vs. the spread as a Las Vegas favorite.

PREDICTIONS

Everyone across the board went for UALR on Thursday. That makes everyone a winner. Real Time RPI continues to lead the season standings.

UP NEXT

UALR gets Louisiana-Monroe at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center. After losing 65-54 to Western Kentucky on Thursday, ULM is now 0-3 on the season. Yes, 0-3. They’ve only played three games with losses to Oklahoma and Louisiana Tech.

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCES


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Who was the UALR player of the game vs. Troy on Thursday?

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Who was the UALR player of the game Thursday vs. Troy




  
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Stats don't tell story, but UALR rallies to hold off Troy in Sun Belt opener

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The game statistics told a different story than what was being played out on the court.

56                     58

UALR (5-3, 1-0 Sun Belt) was dominating statistically yet trailing most of the game. But UALR rallied late to overcome Troy 58-56 at the Jack Stephens Center in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams.
Will Neighbour’s turnaround jumper with 1:05 left gave UALR a 55-53 lead. Then after Troy’s Denonata Jethroe missed a three-pointer, UALR freshman John Gillon was sent to the free throw line. He made both for a 57-53 lead with 32 seconds left.
Troy’s ensuing possession typified much of the game. Jethroe missed but UALR freshman Josh Hagins turned it over on the rebound. Hunter Williams then drilled a three-pointer for Troy to cut the lead to 58-57 with 10 seconds left.
UALR got the ball inbounds to Hagins. He made the first free throw but missed the second for a 58-56 score.
Troy (4-4, 0-1) had one final chance to tie but Jethroe’s jumper hit the front rim and UALR held on.
UALR held Troy to 38 percent shooting, including 6 of 22 (27 percent) from three-point range. UALR went to the free throw line 20 more times and held a 38-36 rebounding advantage. UALR even had 10 turnovers to Troy’s 11.
But Troy was able to hold on to the lead much of the game by attacking the basket and scoring on layup after layup, taking advantage of UALR breakdowns.
But with the game on the line, UALR got enough defensive stops down the stretch to pull it out.
Neighbour’s 14 points and 11 rebounds led UALR. Leroy Isler added 12 points and 9 rebounds, while Taggart Lockhart had 11. Gillon only had 5 points, but 2 of those 5 were his key free throws in the final minute. Hagins had 6 points and 7 rebounds.
UALR returns to action on Saturday, hosting Louisiana-Monroe at the Stephens Center.

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UALR rallies to beat Troy 58-56

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UALR won a game they probably had no business winning. But UALR did beat Troy 58-56 thanks to a big bucket by Will Neighbour and free throws from freshmen.

More to come in a bit.


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UALR Live Tweetcast: Follow along as the UALR Trojans meet the Troy Trojans

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UALR (4-3) opens Sun Belt Conference play tonight as Troy (4-3) visits the Jack Stephens Center for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.

If you're headed to the Stephens Center tonight, bring along that smartphone and follow the game with the Burn The Horse Live Tweetcast. Just go to our Twitter account @burnthehorse. You should also download the UALR Athletics App if you have an iPhone. You can get constantly updated live game statistics.

If you're not going, be sure to stop by here for our Live Tweetcast beginning at 7:15 on Burn The Horse. We'll have game updates, commentary, statistics and more right here.

After the game, stop by BTH again for our BTH Vote Player of the Game voting. It will start around 10:30. And we'll have our full game recap, rewind and statistics ASAP after the game.

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UALR Gameday: Troy's long-range bombing not always what works best

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When you talk about Troy University’s basketball team, the three-pointer immediately comes to mind. It’s been a staple of Coach Don Maestri’s game plan for most of his 31 years there.

TROY AT UALR

7:30 p.m. tonight
Jack Stephens Center
UALR (4-3) opens Sun Belt Conference play at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Jack Stephens Center against Troy (4-3).

So how much is this Troy team like many of the others Maestri has coached. In the short term, it’s exactly the same.

So far this season, 41 percent of Troy’s field goal attempts have been from beyond the three-point line. Last year’s Troy team also attempted 41 percent of its shots there. And the year before? Yep, they also attempted 41 percent of their shots there.

But what many fail to realize is that Maestri’s Troy teams are better when they shoot less of their shots from the three-point line. He’s had two winning seasons since joining the Sun Belt. In both of those seasons (08-09 and 09-10) Troy attempted fewer than 40 percent of their shots from the three-point line. In 2009-2010, Troy finished 20-13 and only attempted 33 percent of their shots from 3.

In 2005-2006, Troy attempted 53 percent of its shots from three point range. And they finished 14-15. Troy’s best teams in the Atlantic Sun were able to get away with bombing threes. Their Sun Belt teams have not had the consistent success unless finding other ways to score.
 
For UALR, that means you can't allow Troy to load up on easy baskets inside the arc. When Troy is forced to live behind the three-point line it hasn't found long-term success.

Troy’s best three-point shooter this year is Hunter Williams (6-0 junior), who has made 16 of 40 for 40 percent. Several others will shoot threes. Most are taken by Tevin Calhoun (6-7 junior) at 31 percent, Denota Jethroe (6-4 sophomore) at 22 percent, Emil Jones  (6-3 senior) at 25 percent and R.J. Scott (6-4 junior) at 28 percent.

Troy has another statistical oddity this year. Antoine Meyers, who has started six games and averages 25 minutes per game, has taken only one three-pointer this season. He’s 1 for 1. Meyers does his damage from the free throw line where he has made 22 of 29.

BURN NOTICE

While going 3-1 last week, UALR shot 46 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range. This came while holding opponents to 40 percent field and 28 percent from three-point range.

KEYS

THREES PLEASE: It pretty much goes without saying against Troy. You have to limit their three-point makes. Troy is 3-1 when shooting a higher three-point percentage than its opponent. UALR won't mind Troy shooting a bunch of threes. But UALR has to contest those threes to keep the percentage down.
GLASS CLEANER: Since the start of fall practice, rebounding has been a concern for the UALR coaching staff. UALR was exposed for this during play last week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. UALR has to hold its own in rebounding, especially with a considerable size advantage over Troy. Troy is 2-0 this season when it outrebounds its opponent.
WIN THE FOUR: Not sure how Troy will match up with UALR, but it’s likely the 6-10 Will Neighbour will be guarded by a 6-4 Troy player. While Troy may have quickness advantage, UALR has the size advantage and needs to use it.

VEGAS BABY

The line has floated around a bit over the past 24 hours but it’s settled at UALR by 9 points. UALR has only been favored twice this season, beating Tennessee-Martin and Jacksonville.

PREDICTIONS

REAL TIME RPI (6-1) UALR 74, Troy 61
THE SPORTS NETWORK (5-1) UALR 66, Troy 60
JEFF SAGARIN (5-2) UALR 76, Troy 65
CBS SPORTSLINE (5-2) UALR 71, Troy 63
OMNI RANKINGS (0-0)
BTH AVERAGE (5-2) UALR 71.8, Troy 62.3

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Middle Tennessee moving to Conference USA.

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Multiple internet outlets are reporting Middle Tennessee will announce a move to Conference USA. No idea what this does for the Sun Belt Conference or UALR. But the Sun Belt is losing one of its strongest members.

Update: Now FAU is departing for CUSA as well.


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BTH UALR scout: Different year, same recipe for Troy, Maestri

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There's not a lot of secrets when it comes to Troy and Coach Don Maestri. He's been at the Troy, Ala., school for 31 seasons and has played many of them the same way -- by getting up a lot of three-point shots.

This year's team has apparently provided one surprise. They're not turning it over very much. And they've got a home victory over Mississippi State. Of course, they also got beat by 20 points at home last night to Alabama-Birmingham.

This was the game preview in Tuesday's Dothan Eagle. It's a pretty good rundown of where Troy is now and what they're up to this year. CLICK HERE.

And read up on last night's loss to Alabama-Birmingham. CLICK HERE.

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Up next: UALR (4-3) vs. Troy (4-3)

BURN THE HORSE
WHEN 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE Jack Stephens Center, Little Rock
ALL-TIME SERIES UALR leads 5-4
LAST MEETING UALR 74, Troy 62; Feb. 18, 2012, at Troy, Ala.
VEGAS SAYS UALR by 9.5 points
RADIO KABZ-FM 103.7 in Little Rock (Ray Tucker, Pat Bradley)
TV None
TICKETS Available at the Stephens Center box office or by calling (501) 565-UALR. Prices: End zone ($7 adults/$5 children); Level 200 ($12); Level 100 ($18); Leather ($24); Club ($38).
WEBCAST www.ualrtrojans.com or UALR Athletics Mobile Phone App

POSSIBLE STARTERS

TROY
NO PLAYER                       HT      YR   P     PPG   RPG
10 Emil Jones                     6-3    SR   G     10.0  6.2
11 Hunter Williams          6-0    JR    G     10.8  2.2
15 Deonata Jethroe        6-4    SO  G     7.5    2.2
1 Antoine Myers              6-3    JR    G     9.0    2.2
34 Ray Chambers             6-6    SR   F      4.7    5.2
PPG 60.0; FG% 38.9; 3P% 34.0; FT% 74.2; RPG 31.3; APG 12.2; TOPG 9.8
COACH Don Maestri (492-386 in 31st season at Troy)
UALR
NO PLAYER                       HT      YR   P     PPG   RPG
2      John Gillon                6-0      FR   G     12.3    2.7
13   Leroy Isler                 6-5      JR    G     6.9      4.9
33   James White            6-8      FR   G/F            10.1  6.1
53   Will Neighbour        6-10   JR    F      12.7    5.9
44   Michael Javes          6-10   SO  F      5.1      3.9
PPG 65.1; FG% 4.4; 3P% 35.5; FT% 64.2; RPG 34.6; APG 13.0; TOPG 14.7
COACH Steve Shields (151-131 in 10th season at UALR)

AND ONES

This is the Sun Belt Conference opener for UALR and Troy. … Troy suffered its first loss at the brand new Trojan Arena on Tuesday, falling 75-55 to Alabama-Birmingham…. This marks just the fifth time Troy has had five November wins under Don Maestri. Of course, the season used to begin on Dec. 1. …. Eight of the nine meetings between UALR and Troy have been as Sun Belt Conference teams. The only other meeting came in the 1962-1963 season when Troy beat Little Rock 76-49.



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It's back to business for UALR and Coach Steve Shields

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I had a little running joke going with UALR Coach Steve Shields last week.
For the past couple of years, teams playing in these preseason tournaments have had their coaches wearing polo-style shirts during the games. So the UALR coaching staff wore polo shirts for the two games last week at home. Even though they were played at the Jack Stephens Center they were part of the Hoops For Hope Classic.

Shields, like most coaches, is a little superstitious. So after the Trojans played pretty well in beating Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Jacksonville, I texted him to ask if he'd go polo shirt the rest of  the season if they followed that up with two victories in Mexico.

He jokingly (or maybe he was serious) texted me back: "If we win 2, coat & tie are DONE!"

After UALR beat SMU last Saturday in Puerto Vallarta, I informed him he was one win away. He replied: "I hope we get to burn all ties!"

Unfortunately, that didn't work out as the Trojans lost to South Carolina in the championship game. Still, it was a solid 3-1 week for the Trojans. Thanks to Coach Shields for playing in our reindeer games. Business attire is expected to return on Thursday.

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Troy plays, UALR rests as teams prepare for Sun Belt opener on Thursday

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When the UALR schedule was released in the summer, two things stood out to me immediately.

TROY AT UALR

7 p.m. Thursday
Jack Stephens Center
The first was that Sun Belt Conference play was beginning on Thursday, Nov. 29, at home against Troy. The second was that UALR was going to be making a long trip back from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on the Monday before that.

I figured Troy would be able to get some rest in before Thursday's game. Then I checked out Troy's schedule. They played Sunday afternoon. And they play again tonight, hosting Alabama-Birmingham at the brand new Trojan Arena. Click here to read about it.

I'm sure there was a scheduling quirk that required Troy to play this game the Tuesday before their Thursday Sun Belt Conference opener. Just like UALR did last week, Troy will play four games in seven days. Unlike UALR, the last two of those games are Sun Belt Conference games.

Troy (4-2) has played well this season with a victory over Mississippi State at Trojan Arena.

UALR (4-3) arrived back in Little Rock late Monday night.

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How would you rate UALR's 4-3 start to the season?

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BTH breakdown: Keeping Neighbour on the court a priority for UALR

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Even in a losing effort last night, junior Will Neighbour stood out for UALR. And it wasn’t just about his 19 points in the 74-62 loss to South Carolina in the Hoops for Hope Championship game in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Will Neighbour
With Neighbour in the game, UALR led 44-42. With Neighbour out of the game, South Carolina led 32-18. That makes Neighbour a +2 for the game on a night when plusses weren’t common. Here’s the rest of last night’s top five:
  • Kemy Osse +9 (29-20)
  • Stetson Billings +9 (24-15)
  • Ted Crass +2 (3-1)
  • Josh Hagins -2 (31-33)

Obviously, Osse, Billings and Crass benefited from UALR’s rally after the game was no longer in doubt.

More interesting was Hagins and John Gillon (-3). They were well into the minus column separately, but +7 on the court together.
 
Neighbour averaged 16.5 points and 6 rebounds in the four games this week. He was a +39 in those games. Keeping him out of foul trouble is a must. He seems to have recovered from the concussion and ankle injury that limited him early in the season. And his shooting stroke seems to be coming back just as Sun Belt Conference play begins.

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BTH UALR Rewind:One game doesn't undo a week's worth of progress

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Does one horrible night undo a week of pretty solid basketball? I guess we’ll find out later this week when UALR begins Sun Belt Conference play against Troy.

BTH UALR REWIND

UALR wasn’t sharp from the start on Sunday night, losing xx-xx to South Carolina in the championship game of the Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. South Carolina rolled to a sizeable first-half lead and extended it early in the second half.
So how bad does it hurt? If we said UALR was going to go 3-1 this week, losing only to South Carolina I think most people would have taken it. It was a really good week that saw a lot of really good things happen.
“I’m really proud of our guys and the progress they’ve made this week,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “The thing that I’m most encouraged about with this young team is [Saturday] night we had 5 turnovers and even tonight we only had 12 turnovers. Those are winning numbers when you consider we are playing with two freshmen point guards.”
And unfortunately when a team is playing as many young players as UALR there are going to be nights like this one.

BURN NOTICE

I wonder who could yell louder: South Carolina Coach Frank Martin or UALR Assistant Coach Joe Kleine? I felt like both were sitting in my living room while listening to that game.

THE GOOD

Will Neighbour, playing in foul trouble much of the night, had a game-high 19 points to lead UALR.

THE BAD

UALR went 11 of 23 for 48 percent from the free throw line.

THE UGLY

UALR got outrebounded 40-25 in the game, including 25-8 in the first half.

KEYS REVISITED

Turn, turn, turn: Actually, UALR wasn’t bad here. South Carolina had 21 turnovers to UALR’s 12. Grade: A
White lightning:  UALR needed to get James White going offensively. He finished with only 6 points and wasn’t a major factor scoring. White did have 4 assists. Grade: D
Rebound: Total disaster. South Carolina held a 40-25 advantage. In the first half, South Carolina missed 12 shots and got the offensive rebound on 10 of them. Grade: F.

VEGAS, BABY

South Carolina was a 3 point favorite and covered that number easily.

PREDICTIONS

Everyone went with SMU and everyone was a winner tonight.

UP NEXT

UALR opens Sun Belt Conference play on Thursday at home against Troy.

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UALR can't rebound in Hoops For Hope Classic championship loss to South Carolina

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UALR seemed a step behind all night long in a 74-62 loss to South Carolina Sunday night in the championship game of the Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
UALR (4-3), which had won three-consecutive games in the tournament, didn’t get going offensively until the game was well out of hand against South Carolina (5-1).

62         74

Will Neighbour led UALR with 19 points, but the Trojans didn’t get much going until late. John Gillon added 9 points, hitting three late three-pointers. UALR missed its first nine three-point attempts.
The highlight might have been the first collegiate points for UALR senior manager turned walk-on Ted Crass, who buried a three-pointer in the final minute of the game.
UALR let the game slip away in the first half, getting outrebounded 25-8 and trailing 39-22 at intermission. The lead ballooned to 26 points in the second half before a garbage time rally by the Trojans.
“I was encouraged about tonight that when we got down 25 tonight we continued to fight and scrap. There are no moral victories. But that was a problem for us a week ago at Ole Miss,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “It’s a typical Frank Martin team. They get after you defensively. They take you out of your stuff offensively. They’re a great rebounding team. We were down 25-8 on the glass in the first half and I thought that was the difference."

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UALR Live Tweetcast: Trojans vs. South Carolina in Hoops for Hope Championship

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UALR (4-2) is back in action at 8:30 p.m. tonight in the Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The Trojans will take on South Carolina (4-1) in the championship game.
The start time is listed as 8:30 p.m. Central. But don't expect it to start then. This is the third game of the day at the Puerto Vallarta Convention Center. We'd expect the UALR-USC game to start closer to 9.

Hoops for Hope offers no live video, unless someone whips out a cell phone and livecasts it, so you'll have to attempt to follow along with Ray Tucker. We think tonight's game is on 103.7 The Buzz. We'll update if we hear differently.

Of course, we'll have game information and commentary on the Burn The Horse Live Tweetcast all night long. You can also follow our Twitter account at @burnthehorse for live updates throughout the game.

Live stats are available via GameTracker.

Check back after the game for a recap, statistics and analysis. Live Tweets start tonight about 8:15 p.m.

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UALR Gameday: Trojans looking for icing in Hoops for Hope championship

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At the beginning of the week, we thought that if UALR could go 3-1 this week it would be a pretty solid week.

UALR vs. South Carolina

8:30 p.m. tonight
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
That would have meant winning a couple of decent home games against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Jacksonville and splitting the two games in Mexico.

But after winning the first three games this week, the feeling is different.

It’s time to get greedy as UALR (4-2) takes on South Carolina (4-1) at 8:30 tonight in the championship game of the Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

UALR Coach Steve Shields said last night the recent success wasn’t about what has happened this week, but it was more about the process of how this team has evolved throughout the month.

But there’s a definite opportunity to see how far this team has come in nine days. Nine days ago, the Southeastern Conference’s Ole Miss blistered UALR in a 40-point loss in Oxford, Miss. UALR gets another shot at an SEC opponent tonight in South Carolina.

Regardless of tonight’s result, this has been a successful week. But a little icing on the cake would be a nice treat heading into Sun Belt Conference play.

BURN NOTICE

Through six games, UALR’s freshmen point guards have combined for a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. John Gillon and Josh Hagins have a combined 33 assists and 30 turnovers this season. Those aren’t great numbers, but for freshmen gaining their first collegiate experience it’s not bad.

BTH KEYS

Turn, turn, turn:  South Carolina averages more than 20 turnovers per game. The Gamecocks had 20 in the first half last night against Missouri State. But they had only five the remainder of the game (second half and overtime). UALR, which had a season-low seven turnovers last night, needs to win the turnover battle.

White lightning: UALR’s James White has been the ultimate garbage player so far. Don’t take that as a negative. It’s been White’s hustle at both ends of the court that has been a major boost this week. But White also has a nice jump shot that just hasn’t been falling. Tonight would be a good night to make that work.
 
Rebound: South Carolina is going to be aggressive in attacking UALR. The Trojans have got to get a body on USC players and hold their own in rebounding.

VEGAS SAYS

South Carolina is a two-point favorite in the Las Vegas line. We’d suspect that line would have been double digits last week. UALR is 2-2 as a straight-up underdog and 3-2 vs. the spread this season.

PREDICTIONS

Real Time RPI hasn't updated yet, but everyone else goes with South Carolina. It should be noted that Jeff Sagarin had this game a virtual tie. South Carolina was narrowly rated higher.
REAL TIME RPI (5-1) No pick
THE SPORTS NETWORK (4-1) South Carolina 70, UALR 63
JEFF SAGARIN (4-2) South Carolina 73, UALR 72
CBS SPORTSLINE (4-2) South Carolina 67, UALR 65
OMNI RANKINGS (0-0) Still waiting
BTH AVERAGE (4-2) South Carolina 70.0, UALR 66.7

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BTH Ratings: Lockhart proves value off the bench in win streak

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We heard a lot in the offseason about the improvement of sophomore guard Taggart Lockhart. It’s been on full display during UALR’s three-game winning streak.
 
Lockhart
Lockhart turned in the best BTH Plus/Minus rating in Saturday’s 69-56 victory over SMU in the semifinals of the Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. With Lockhart on the court, UALR outscored SMU 55-38. With Lockhart on the bench, UALR was outscored 18-14.
 
That makes Lockhart a team-best +17 on Saturday.
 
The rest of the top five included:
  • John Gillon +14 (43-29)
  • Leroy Isler +11 (46-35)
  • Will Neighbour +10 (53-43)
  • James White +9 (54-45)
Isler was able to take the season lead by percentage points over Neighbour in Plus/Minus per minute. Neighbour still leads in Plus/Minus Per game and season. Isler is a team best +13 in the past five games.

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Up next: UALR (4-2) vs. South Carolina (4-1)

BURN THE HORSE
WHEN 8:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE Puerto Vallarta Conventon Center, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
ALL-TIME SERIES First meeting
VEGAS SAYS South Carolina by 2
RADIO KHLR-FM 106.7 in Little Rock (Ray Tucker)
WEBCAST None
TV None

POSSIBLE STARTERS

SOUTH CAROLINA
NO PLAYER HT YR P PPG RPG
0 LaShay Page                  6-2    SR  G  15.4  4.2
5 Eric Smith                       5-11  JR  G   6.8   1.6
25 Mindaugas Kacinas      6-7    FR  F    7.0   6.2
30 Lakeem Jackson          6-5     SR F    11.4   7.0
33 R.J. Slawson                 6-8    JR F     3.8   4.8
PPG 76.8; FG% 47.3; 3P% 36.3; FT% 78.4; RPG 37.8; APG 13.2; TOPG 20.4
COACH Frank Martin (4-1 at South Carolina)
UALR
NO PLAYER HT YR P PPG RPG
2 John Gillon          6-0   FR   G   12.8   2.7
13 Leroy Isler         6-5   JR   G     6.7   5.3
33 James White     6-8   FR  G/F 10.8   6.5
53 Will Neighbour  6-10 JR    F    11.7   6.0
44 Michael Javes   6-10 SO   F     4.8   4.0
PPG 65.7; FG% 41.5; 3P% 36.3; FT% 67.5; RPG 36.2; APG 12.8; TOPG 15.2
COACH Steve Shields (151-130 at UALR)

AND ONES

South Carolina averages more than 20 turnovers per game. The Gamecocks had 20 in the first half alone on Saturday against Missouri State … South Carolina has some firepower coming off the bench. 5-11 Brenton Williams averages 12.8 points, 6-4 Brian Richardson averages 9.0 points and 6-5 Michael Carrera is the Gamecocks’ leading scorer at 17.5 points per game.... Frank Martin is in his first year at South Carolina after leaving Kansas State.

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BTH UALR Rewind: Staying fresh key as Trojans advance past SMU

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Wouldn’t you like to know what was said on the bus trip home from Oxford, Miss., a little more than a week ago?

BTH UALR REWIND

UALR had just gotten pounded by 40 points by Ole Miss and didn’t really have much time to get ready for a busy week with four games in seven days. You figure Coach Steve Shields might have killed them in practice on Saturday. But he didn’t. They took the day off. He felt that getting fresh legs for this week was far more important.
Instead they used the film room and Monday’s walkthrough to teach. The players responded with solid victories over Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Jacksonville. They flew to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Thursday but didn’t practice after arriving. Again, he was looking for fresh legs when they took the court on Saturday.
They were clearly fresh in Saturday’s 69-56 victory over Southern Methodist in the semifinals of the Hoop for Hope Classic.
With such a young team, there’s much to learn early in the season.  But figuring out when to push and when to rest has been an even bigger lesson so far.

BURN NOTICE

After getting pounded on the boards 21-11 in the first half, including 7-0 in offensive rebounds, UALR regrouped after halftime. UALR outrebounded SMU 16-13 in the second half, including 3-2 in offensive rebounds. That difference allowed the Trojans to take control of the game in the second half.

STAT OF THE GAME

7: UALR had only seven turnovers on Saturday, by far a season low.

THE GOOD

4: Blocked shots by UALR sophomore Michael Javes who, more importantly, finished the game with only three fouls.

THE BAD

0-6: UALR’s first half free throw shooting. The Trojans were 11 of 13 in the second half.

THE UGLY

2-8: Combined free throw shooting for Will Neighbour and Michael Javes. Both went 1 for 4.

KEYS REVISITED

Bench it: Will Neighbour drew two huge fouls on SMU’s Jalen Jones early in the game, sending him to the bench for the remainder of the first half. Jones eventually fouled out without scoring. Grade: A-.
Focus factor: UALR avoided distractions, getting off to a solid start and playing with great energy throughout. Grade: A+
Win the 3: James White and Taggart Lockhart combined for 20 points for UALR. SMU’s Jalen Jones fouled out without scoring a point. Grade: A++++

VEGAS, BABY

UALR was a 4.5-point underdog going in. UALR is now 2-2 as the underdog this season. The Trojans are now 3-2 vs. the spread.

PREDICTIONS

Everyone went with SMU making everyone a loser tonight. It’s the first loss of the season for BTH Predictions leader Real Time RPI.

UP NEXT

No time to celebrate. UALR takes on South Carolina at 8:30 p.m. tonight in the championship game of the Hoops for Hope Classic from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Like Saturday night, the game is the third of the day on the court. Expect it to start closer to 9 p.m.

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