Five score in double figures as UALR downs Louisiana-Lafayette

68   77

It wasn’t always pretty, but UALR got back on track on Thursday with a 77-68 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.

Five Trojans scored in double figures as UALR (16-14, 10-9) clinched no worse than the No. 6 seed at next week’s Sun Belt Tournament. UALR will be the No. 5 seed, and earn a first-round bye, if the Trojans beat Arkansas State on Saturday or Western Kentucky loses to Middle Tennessee.

Louisiana-Lafayette (11-19, 7-12) was eliminated from bye consideration with the loss.

Will Neighbour had 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead UALR. Josh Hagins had 14 points and 7 rebounds, John Gillon and Ben Dillard 13 points apiece and Leroy Isler 10 points and 5 rebounds.

UALR, which hadn’t shot 40 percent, or scored 30 first-half points in any of the previous four games, busted both of those on Thursday. UALR shot 49 percent from the field, 43 percent from three-point range and made 23 of 29 free throws. And UALR held a 36-26 halftime lead.

UALR led the majority of the game and took the lead for good midway through the first half. And it was crisp passing that led to easy baskets.

First Gillon found Neighbour for a layup to tie the game 17-17. Then Gillon found Dillard for a layup and a 19-17 lead. James White fed Hagins for a layup and a 21-17 lead. And Dillard scored on a layup after a pass from Hagins for a 23-17 lead with 8:20 left.

UALR stretched the lead to 59-43 with 10:59 left after a layup by Gillon. Then things got a bit tight. Louisiana-Lafayette got to within 62-58 with 5:28 left after two free throws by Elfrid Payton. On the ensuing possession, Neighbour hit a three-pointer from the corner to extend the lead back to 65-58. Louisiana-Lafayette never got any closer than six points the rest of the game.