UALR out of sync as Arkansas State takes over Sun Belt West lead

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UALR was out of sync from the start on Thursday in an 86-62 loss to Arkansas State at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.

UALR (15-11, 9-6) was down 8-0 at the start and never got closer than 12 points in the second half to Arkansas State, which now leads UALR by ½ game in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division.

“You have to give them credit. They jumped out to an 8-0 lead and we had to call a timeout. We’ve made strides from a young team standpoint but we didn’t handle the runs the way we needed to,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “They played with passion. We can’t give up 45 points in a half, 51 percent from the floor.”

UALR’s leading scorer and rebounder Will Neighbour played sparingly after missing the entire week of practice with a virus. He was considered doubtful to play but did see action. His 35-game starting streak ended though when freshman James White was in the starting lineup.

It likely wouldn’t have mattered. Arkansas State was solid defensively and good enough offensively to build a 24-point first half lead. UALR fought back to cut the lead to 45-29 at halftime. And UALR did get as close as 12 points in the second half after a three-pointer by Ben Dillard. But Arkansas State’s Ed Townsell hit a three-pointer at the other end and the rout was on.

Josh Hagins and John Gillon led UALR with 11 points apiece. Neighbour had 5 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes. He probably played more than he would have if White and Michael Javes were not in serious first-half foul trouble.