I saw UALR Coach Steve Shields in the hall after Saturday’s 88-76 victory over Florida International.
“Did you practice or not practice free throws,” I asked.
“We practiced them,” Shields said.
Whatever they did, it worked. UALR, which had made 10 of 24 free throws over the past two games, made 24 of 28 on Saturday. That included 5 of 5 from Michael Javes, 4 of 4 from Josh Hagins, 5 of 6 by Ben Dillard and 2 of 2 by Gus Leeper.
Javes entered the game shooting 29 percent. But he looked comfortable and confident at the line on Saturday.
When teams that should be decent free throw shooting teams are struggling, there’s two schools of thought. You either spend extra time in practice making sure everyone is comfortable. Or you don’t practice them at all. You don’t even bring it up.
I remember when UALR Assistant Coach Robert Lee was at Louisiana-Lafayette. He had a team that was struggling and took the don’t mention it approach. And it seems like they got better.
Shields isn’t one to chance such matters. That’s why it didn’t surprise me that they worked on them.
Playing on television, it seemed a strong possibility that James White’s tomahawk dunk might have made ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the day on Saturday. It didn’t. Too bad because it was good enough.
The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball might normally be played by Fayetteville, but it would be difficult to top the first-half pace by UALR and Florida International. UALR led 51-36 at halftime and was in double digits in turnovers.
The Sun Belt needs to fix officiating – at least on network television games. Saturday’s UALR-FIU game was officiated by Samuel Croft, John Moore and Vladimir Voyard-Tadal. And they struggled throughout. Not that this is a surprise. After all, it’s a league-wide joke about Saturday Night in the Sun Belt officials. Here’s a solution. Up the pay for these TV games. Pay the same as the SEC, Big XII and others. Just for these games. It increases your chance of getting a better crew. And it would make the league look better as well.
STAT OF THE GAME
5-5 Michael Javes went 5 of 5 at the free throw line. And UALR needed them all early in the game.
BTH KEYS REVISITED
Free time: UALR made 24 of 28 free throws. Grade: A+
Second chance: UALR outrebounded FIU 29-25 for the game but gave up 10 offensive rebounds to the Trojans’ 7. FIU held a 13-10 advantage in second-chance points. That’s not good enough. Grade: D.
Magic number: Remember all that stuff about never losing when UALR gives up 66 or fewer points? Well, it’s all still true. So is the fact that when UALR scores 88 they win. But for the purposes of this, the defense just wasn’t good enough. Grade: C.
Ben Dillard had 11 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, a steal and no turnovers in 29 minutes.
UALR gave up 10 offensive rebounds to an undersized Florida International team.
21 turnovers is just way too many.
UALR went off as the favorite and easily covered the number.
Everyone was a winner. Again, Real Time RPI was the closest prediction.
It doesn’t get any easier. UALR travels to Middle Tennessee on Thursday and Western Kentucky on Saturday. UALR, which hasn’t won on the road this season, needs to get one to hold the West Division lead.