UALR wins 'must win' game vs. Western Kentucky

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The fifth of a 20-game Sun Belt Conference schedule is hardly a must-win game. But Thursday’s UALR game against Western Kentucky was about as close as you can get this time of year.

UALR (9-7, 3-2) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 75-67 victory over Western Kentucky, which entered the game having beaten UALR eight consecutive times.

UALR won by outscoring Western Kentucky 19-10 at the free throw line and by committing 10 fewer turnovers.

Leroy Isler had 13 points and 4 steals to lead UALR. But it was his work on the defensive end that was most notable. He held Western Kentucky’s T.J. Price to 8 points in 21 minutes. And Price fouled out with 7:52 remaining in the game.

Michael Javes played one of the best games of his career with 11 points and 3 rebounds. It would have been even better if not for his 1 of 6 free-throw shooting.

Ben Dillard rebounded from a couple of sluggish games with 10 points, making 4 of 7 field-goal attempts. But Dillard was injured late in the game after a foul that wasn’t called sent him to the court. He did not return.

Also injured and not returning was point guard John Gillon, who appeared to injure his knee making a steal late in the first half. Gillon returned to the bench in the second half with his knee heavily iced.

Josh Hagins returned to the starting lineup at point guard on Thursday and ended up playing 28 minutes, including most of the second half. He finished with 5 assists and no turnovers.

UALR built a 14-point first-half lead but saw it go for naught when Western Kentucky football player Marcus Vasquez banked in a three-pointer as he was fouled by Ben Dillard with 3 seconds left in the first half. His free throw sent the game to halftime tied 36-36.

The second half was back-and-forth for the first seven minutes before a five-point run by Dillard turned a 45-42 deficit into a 47-45 lead. Two free throws and a jump shot by Kemy Osse, thrust into playing point guard with Gillon on the bench, increased the lead to 51-45.

Western Kentucky got as close as 55-52 after Price re-entered the game with four fouls. But a strong move for a layup by Javes fouled Price out and gave UALR a 57-52 lead.

Western Kentucky’s press wasn’t really effective as the Trojans stretched the lead out. A layup by Taggart Lockhart with 2:26 to play made it 69-57. UALR then made enough free throws to keep the game out of reach.