Crass didn’t have any points or assists on Thursday. But his three minutes of game action in the first half was as important as anything that happened in Thursday’s 65-62 victory over Florida Atlantic at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
UALR fell behind 33-11 with 3:01 left in the first half and UALR Coach Steve Shields had already called a couple timeouts. He was desperate. So he put in Crass, who had only previously played in the first half against St. Gregory’s.
If nothing else, Crass provided an emotional boost. UALR cut the lead to 35-16 on a layup by Leroy Isler. And then after a turnover, Will Neighbour hit a three-pointer at the buzzer as UALR trimmed it to 35-19.
“We played all 12 guys in the first half. We weren’t getting the energy that we wanted,” Shields said.
But Crass’ inspiration didn’t stop there. He gave a halftime speech about having only 4 ½ games left in the season.
“How hard everyone had worked going back to the summer and to not have regrets,” Shields said of the speech. “He challenged all of our guys and that’s what Ted’s done for this team. Teddy’s a fiery guy, he’s been with us for a while. He’s an effort based guy.”
Shields then nearly broke down in the postgame press conference talking about Crass.
“I love him like he’s my own,” Shields continued, fighting back tears. “That’s why he came out last year. … He’s tough. And he’s going to be a heck of a coach too.”
Crass' story was already pretty good. He was a guy everyone liked and respected as a manager. And that was elevated to a different level when Shields gave him the opportunity to become a player on the team last season. His legend went to another level on Thursday.
UALR was a different team after halftime. And they have Crass at least partially to blame.
BURN BABY BURN
Florida Atlantic Coach Mike Jarvis repeatedly told his team they had no timeouts left as they returned to the court. Down three points with 7 seconds left, FAU’s Greg Gantt dribbled over to the FAU bench and appeared to try to call timeout. While a technical foul could have been given, game officials decided to let it play out. Pablo Bertone tried to take the ball away from Gantt but stepped out of bounds with less than a second remaining. And FAU never got off a final attempt.
STAT OF THE GAME
52 percent. UALR’s second-half shooting percentage. The Trojans have rallied from halftime deficits in two consecutive games and have shot above 50 percent in the second half of both.
Get to 60: UALR couldn’t hold Florida Atlantic to less than 60 points, but the Trojans did win 65-62. A couple of first-half defensive stops would have done it in what turned out to be a 65-62 game. Grade: C.
Windex: At one point, UALR was behind nine on the boards. But UALR rallied in the second half and won the rebounding battle 32-28. The Trojans held a 14-9 advantage second chance points. Grade: A.
Will to win: I’m not sure Will Neighbour could have played any better. Neighbour had 24 points, 11 rebounds, 1 blocked shot and 1 steal on Thursday. Grade: A+.
Freshman guard Kemy Osse is providing the secondary rebounding UALR has lacked much of this season. He finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds on Thursday.
For the second consecutive game an opposing point guard lit UALR up. This time it was FAU’s Stefan Moody with 24 points.
UALR trailed by as many as 22 points in the first half thanks to a 19-0 run by Florida Atlantic.
UALR won but those betting on the Trojans were losers. UALR was between a five and six point favorite going in.
Everyone was a winner on Thursday. The Sports Network’s 67-61 prediction turned out to be closest.
UALR goes to North Texas on Saturday night. North Texas lost at home to Middle Tennessee on Thursday.