UALR (8-7, 2-2) hosts Western Kentucky (10-5, 4-0) at 7:30 tonight at the Jack Stephens Center.
Dillard played behind Chuck Guy most of last year but was expected to be a major scoring threat as a sophomore. After all, he shot 43 percent from three-point range as a freshman. It appeared more playing time and additional confidence as a sophomore, would see his 4.7 points per game scoring average shoot up as a sophomore.
It appeared Dillard was headed out of his scoring slump when he put up 17 points against Louisiana-Monroe, 8 vs. St. Gregory’s, 10 vs. Cincinnati and 8 vs. Tulsa. Three of those four games were victories. But since then he’s struggled with 6 points vs. Louisiana Tech, 5 vs. South Alabama and 5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette. All three were losses.
It’s hurt UALR because the Trojans are in need of more scoring. Junior Will Neighbour’s numbers are slightly up from a year ago, but UALR continues to get very little scoring out of the post with Michael Javes and Gus Leeper. And when freshmen James White or John Gillon haven't been able to add to that, UALR has struggled to get needed scoring from the 2 position.
Junior Leroy Isler has been primarily the starter at the 2 mostly for his defensive capabilities. But Isler has also contributed 6.9 points per game in his 24.1 minutes. That has allowed Isler, more of a 3 guard, to take away Dillard’s opportunities.
Considering UALR’s next two opponents – Western Kentucky and Troy – like to play zone defense, jump shooting will be a needed asset. And Dillard’s numbers show he has the potential to score.
BURN BABY BURN
UALR Coach Steve Shields once had a 4-3 record in games against Western Kentucky. He’s now 4-11 with a current eight-game losing streak.
UALR’s turnover situation has been much better of late. It will need to be again tonight. WKU likely won’t press throughout, but they have a very effective press they utilize when they need it. UALR’s guards will definitely be tested tonight.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Hack Harris: Here’s a remarkable statistic. Western Kentucky guard Brandon Harris has played 231 of the past 240 minutes Western Kentucky has been on the court. He’s averaging 38.5 minutes during that stretch. But that’s not the remarkable part. The remarkable part is that he’s only committed 8 fouls in six games. He’s been nowhere near foul trouble. Considering that injuries have depleted WKU’s guard depth, UALR needs to put some fouls on Harris to force someone else to beat them.
70th Heaven: This we know for a fact. When UALR’s opponents score 69 or fewer points, UALR is 8-0. When opponents score 70 or more, UALR is 0-7. Holding WKU to fewer than 70 should be a priority. But it won’t be easy. WKU has scored 70 or more nine times and is 8-1 in those games.
Fresh feeling: UALR needs more from freshman guard/forward James White. He was averaging 12.0 points through the first two Sun Belt Conference games but scored only 10 total in losses to South Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette.
The early line had Western Kentucky favored by 1 point tonight. But this morning it has slid to a pick 'em. Can't get much tighter than that.
After getting burned in each of the past two games, CBS Sportsline doesn't go with UALR tonight. And now that TSN's pick is in, WKU is favored by 3 of the 5 selectors and by 0.2 points overall. This is the closest prediction we've ever had at BTH.
REAL TIME RPI (12-2): UALR 73, WKU 67
JEFF SAGARIN (12-2): WKU 76, UALR 73
OMNI RANKINGS (5-1): UALR 66, WKU 64
THE SPORTS NETWORK (10-3): WKU 61, UALR 58
CBS SPORTSLINE (9-5): WKU 69, UALR 66
BTH AVERAGE (11-3): WKU 67.4, UALR 67.2