Before UALR’s trip to Canada, Burn The Horse wrote about five things we were watching for.
We wanted to see who would step up at the point guard position. Sophomore Josh Hagins posted some really good numbers. There’s no doubt he’s going to get minutes. Junior J.T. Thomas was a bit of an unknown coming in but he led UALR in both minutes played and plus/minus. UALR averaged 1.98 points per minute with Hagins in the game, 1.83 points per minute with Thomas in the game and 1.42 points per minute with DeVonte Smith in the game. Those numbers can be a bit skewed because there were often two of the three on the court at the same time. Thomas averaged 4.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists, Hagins averaged 8.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists and Smith 3.3 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists. It should also be noted that Smith made 2 of the 3 three-pointers he attempted, including a key trey in Game 3.
2. Shooting Star
Who would step up and take control of the 2 guard position? The answer is that this spot remains up for grabs. One interesting twist to this spot was the addition of sophomore Josh Hagins. After splitting time between the point and 2 guard in the first two games in Canada, Hagins played exclusively at the 2 guard in the final game, which UALR won vs. Calgary. Ben Dillard had some good moments and some lackluster moments. As did Kemy Osse. And we saw a little bit of time here from J.T. Thomas, Stetson Billings and Mareik Isom. Billings and Isom saw time at the 3 and 4 positions where a lot of minutes were available due to the injury of senior Leroy Isler. As for the 2 guard, it appears to still be wide open.
3. Will To Win
When senior Will Neighbour was good, he was really good. But he also struggled at times. He got off to a slow start in the first game against Calgary. Then with UALR rallying, he committed a third and fourth foul within seconds at the start of the third quarter. Your star player can’t help you from the bench and UALR spun out of control when he went out. Neighbour was very good again in the third game as UALR won. Neighbour averaged 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds.
4. White Lightning
Could sophomore James White play with the energy UALR needs him to play at? The answer appears to have been yes. White averaged 10.3 points and 5.0 rebounds over the three games. He finished the three games at a -5 in the plus/minus, but he was actually on the plus side in two of the three games.
5. Post position
With the departure of Michael Javes and the injury to freshman Andrew Poulter, there was some pressure to see what UALR would do with the post. It was manned almost exclusively in Canada by senior Will Neighbour and junior Gus Leeper, who we wanted to keep an eye on. And Leeper played pretty well. He finished at a +6 in the plus/minus and averaged 5.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. But he had 11 offensive rebounds. He’s a key if UALR is to rebound from a struggling rebounding year.