Thursday’s game slipped away early in the second half when UALR was unable to capitalize on really good defense. The result was a loss to Florida International that likely knocks UALR out of a No. 2 seed in next month’s Sun Belt Tournament.
UALR trailed 29-25 at halftime and FIU quickly extended its lead to 7 points. But UALR fought back, getting to within 32-29 on a dunk by sophomore Michael Javes with 18:28 left.
UALR then got stop after stop on defense. Their offensive possessions included:
- A missed three-pointer by sophomore Ben Dillard;
- A turnover by junior Will Neighbour;
- A missed three-pointer by freshman Josh Hagins;
- A missed three-pointer by Will Neighbour (with a missed putback by Hagins);
- And a missed jump shot from a bad position by Hagins.
FIU’s Jerome Frink hit a three-pointer to end the Golden Panthers’ scoring drought. UALR then cut the lead to 35-33 on a basket by Neighbour with 13:29 left.
Then came the gamble that swung momentum.
FIU had the ball on the wing and attempted to throw it back to the top for Tymell Murphy. UALR junior Leroy Isler anticipated the play and shot out there, gambling to make a steal instead of staying in sound defensive position. Had Isler stolen the ball, he would have gone uncontested for the layup. But he didn’t get there. Instead, he flew by Murphy, who lined up the shot and buried a three-pointer.
It gave FIU a 38-33 lead. The Trojans would only get as close as 3 one other time.
With three games remaining, UALR can still finish second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth in the overall standings. The most likely scenario would have UALR in the 4/5 game against Florida International. UALR currently has nine victories. If UALR wins 2 of its last 3 it will guarantee one of five first-round byes. It’s definitely possible to get a bye with a 10-10 record, but the Trojans would need some help. If Arkansas State wins at home on Saturday vs. Troy, the best UALR can finish is fourth.
STAT OF THE GAME
9.1: UALR made 2 of 22 three-pointers for 9.1 percent. It’s mind-blowing that they would continue to shoot from long range considering they were 20 of 34 (59 percent) inside the arc.
BTH KEYS REVISITED
Turning point: Believe it or not, UALR won the turnover battle. But committing 22 turnovers gives you little margin for error, especially when you shoot 9.1 percent from three-point range. Grade: F.
Set the alarm: UALR got off to a decent start but a late first-half run gave FIU the halftime lead. Grade: D.
Javes another: Michael Javes was a bright spot, scoring 12 points and adding 5 rebounds. He was 5 of 7 from the field but UALR didn’t get the ball inside to him nearly enough. Grade: A.
UALR had seven blocked shots, including four by Javes.
UALR got outrebounded 35-31 by an undersized FIU team.
UALR made just 6 of 15 free throw attempts. Javes made 2 of 4, well above his average. But James White was 1 of 5, Gillon was 0 of 2 and Neighbour 1 of 2.
FIU was a five-point favorite in Las Vegas and easily covered.
Everyone was a winner.
UALR travels up the coast to meet Florida Atlantic on Saturday. FAU lost in overtime at North Texas on Thursday. UALR can eliminate the Owls from bye consideration (and help their own cause) with a victory.