UALR went without a made three-pointer on Monday in a 76-59 loss to Middle Tennessee at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The loss drops UALR to 0-3 to start the season, the first 0-3 start for the Trojans in 29 years.
Senior Will Neighbour had 21 points and 8 rebounds to lead UALR. And junior J.T. Thomas had 11 points. Those two combined to make 64 percent of UALR’s made field goals in the game.
That’s because UALR made only 14 of 47 from the field. Eleven of those 33 missed shots were blocked shots by Middle Tennessee. Eleven more came from the three-point line where the Trojans were 0 for 11.
The only reason the game was even that close was because UALR exploited the new NCAA defensive rules to perfection. UALR drove hard to the basket all game, battled for rebounds and put Middle Tennessee in bad situations defensively. The Trojans made 31 of 42 free throws in the game.
UALR fell behind by 17 points early and trailed by 15 at halftime. But the Trojans crawled back in the second half behind Neighbour, who was double-teamed every time he touched the ball. A converted three-point play by senior Leroy Isler cut the lead to 59-53 with 6:33 left.
But Middle Tennessee responded on a jump shot by Shawn Jones to push the lead back to 8. The Blue Raiders were able to pull away from there.
Neighbour made only 5 of 7 field goal attempts. But, after making 100 percent of his free throws coming in, he made only 11 of 16 at the line.
UALR once again got very little out of its 2 guard position. Sophomore Josh Hagins started and went 1 of 7 from the field to finish with 4 points. Sophomore Kemy Osse finished with one point and has still not made a field goal in three games this season.
One positive: UALR outrebounded Middle Tennessee 38-31.
UALR Coach Steve Shields shortened the rotation for the first time this season. Sophomore Stetson Billings and freshman Maurius Hill didn’t play until mop up time at the end.