UALR holds off ULM to reclaim first in Sun Belt West

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UALR held up its end of the bargain and got the help it needed on Thursday. UALR’s 70-60 victory over Louisiana-Monroe at Fant-Ewing Coliseum allowed the Trojans to move back into sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division.

UALR (15-10, 9-5) entered the game tied with Arkansas State atop the West Division standings. But Arkansas State’s loss allowed UALR to take a one-game lead. ASU plays Saturday at Western Kentucky while UALR has Saturday off.

UALR held a 13-point halftime lead but saw that cut to 2 points in the second half. UALR never gave up the lead though and pushed it back to double digits on their way to the victory.

“That was a good one for us,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “ULM has been playing a lot better than their record indicates. They got beat by FIU by 3, by FAU by 5. I thought we defended with a passion and did an excellent job on the glass.”

Josh Hagins led UALR with 14 points. But the key was probably Gus Leeper, who had a career high 12 points and 6 rebounds.

“I thought he did a good job of posting hard,” Shields said of Leeper. “We had a size advantage in there and our guards did a good job of looking in there.”

Will Neighbour added 11 points and 6 rebounds, including a crucial 3 late, and Michadel Javes had 8 points and 6 rebounds. UALR outrebounded ULM 34-25.

ULM got to within 42-40 in the second half. UALR responded to take control of the game.

Kemy Osse and John Gillon each hit two free throws. Then Leeper tipped in a Gillon miss for a 48-40 lead. Osse then hit a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 11.

It still wasn’t over. Back to back three-pointers by Louisiana-Monroe’s Trey Lindsey cut the lead to 61-58 with 1:55 left.

UALR didn’t hesitate at the other end. Neighbour drilled a three-pointer with 1:40 left to push the lead back to 64-58. And after a defensive stop, UALR put the game away with a James White dunk.