Down by 14 points with 1:16 remaining, UALR needed an absolutely perfect finish just to have any hope.
UALR (1-3) avoided its first 0-4 start to a season since 1984 when rookie coach Mike Newell’s Trojans started that way.
“That’s a big win for these guys,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “I felt like if that team continued to fight, if they’d hang together and keep fighting that good things would happen to them. Those guys in that locker room needed this.”
Again, UALR was down 14 with 1:16 to play.
“To have a situation like that, guys have to keep fighting, stay together and make the right plays,” Shields said. “There’s no 14-point plays. You can’t try to get it all back in one big play.”
Senior Will Neighbour had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead UALR. Hagins had 19 points, including 4 of 7 three-pointers.
Junior Ben Dillard, playing his first minutes of the season, made 9 of 10 free throws and came up with a huge steal late in regulation and grabbed a key loose ball in overtime.
“Ben’s practiced twice in the last three weeks,” Shields said. “[Athletic Trainer Michael Switlik] has done a good job with him. He stepped up big and played a lot of minutes.”
Sophomore Kemy Osse, who hadn’t made a field goal all season, made a couple of big shots late.
But it didn’t look like it would happen when UALR saw its 40-37 lead turn into a 48-41 Southern advantage in the second half.
Southern continued to build its lead as UALR faltered. The back-breaker appeared to be a three-pointer by Yondarius Johnson with 1:33 left as the Jaguars took a 64-52 lead. After a missed layup, Southern’s Christopher Hyder hit two free throws to give Southern a 66-52 lead with 1:16 left.
Then the dream sequence started.
Hagins hit a three-pointer, Southern turned it over and James White tipped in a rebound to cut the lead to 66-57 with :57 left.
Southern missed a free throw and Neighbour hit a jumper to make it 66-59. Southern missed another free throw and Hagins scored on a layup to make it 66-61 with :29 left.
Southern’s Trey Lynch hit two free throws but UALR sophomore Kemy Osse answered with a three-pointer, his first field goal of the season for a 68-64 score with :21 left.
Southern led 70-64 with 17 seconds left. That’s when Hagins missed a layup and Osse scored on a putback with 9 seconds left to make it 70-66. Dillard then stole the ball and was fouled with 8.8 left. Dillard made both for a 70-68 score. UALR fouled Trelun Banks, the coach’s son.
Banks missed the first and made the second for a 71-68 score. UALR went to Hagins who dribbled down the court and drilled a three-pointer to tie the game with 4.6 seconds left.
After trailing by five in overtime, UALR took the lead at 79-78 with 1:09 to play. Neighbour set up, received the pass, spun and banked it in.
Then after a Southern miss, Neighbour dove to the floor after the loose ball and secured possession for UALR in the backcourt. He tipped the ball to Dillard and he was fouled with 35 seconds left.
“That was a championship play right there,” Shields said.
Dillard made both free throws as the Trojans took an 81-78 lead and Southern called timeout. After two free throws by Southern, Dillard made two more for an 83-80 lead. Southern missed and UALR’s James White skied for the rebound and was fouled with 5.1 seconds left.
White, who was only 1 of 4 at the free throw line on the season, stepped up and made both free throws to ice the game at 85-80.
“Just a total team effort,” Shields said. “That locker room’s an exciting locker room right now. I told them, ‘This has to start something.’ We’ve got to be ready to play Tuesday night when we go back home.”