Still, UALR responded every time they had to on Friday, beating Jacksonville State 75-70 in the opening game of the BVI Tropical Shootout at Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. UALR (4-6) advances to the championship game and will play the winner of Southern Miss and Coppin State at 7 p.m. on Saturday night.
Junior Ben Dillard came off the bench to score 18 points to lead UALR. Sophomore Josh Hagins had 16 points. Senior Will Neighbour had an off night shooting, making just 3 of 10 field goals. But Neighbour gutted it out, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore James White nearly matched that double-double with 9 points and 12 rebounds.
UALR shot an amazing 54 percent from the field and an even better 8 of 12 from three-point range. That more than made up the deficit the Trojans faced at the free throw line. UALR made 15 of 24 to Jacksonville State’s 16 of 30. But several of those 15 makes came in the final minute as the Trojans were holding off the Gamecocks. UALR also outrebounded Jacksonville State 40-27.
Darion Rackley led Jacksonville State (5-9) with 17 points. JSU shot 46 percent from the field.
UALR never trailed and the game was only tied once. And UALR built a 10-point lead on a couple of occasions. But they could never shake the Gamecocks.
After taking a 56-46 lead on nine-consecutive points by Josh Hagins, UALR gave up the next nine as JSU cut the lead to 1. UALR answered a couple of times to keep the lead before a three-pointer by Avery Moore tied the game 60-60, the first tie of the game.
Neighbour missed a thre-pointer for UALR and Moore missed for Jacksonville State. Then senior Leroy Isler put the Trojans in front for good. He hit only his seventh three-pointer of the season, then flipped in another shot in the paint for a 65-61 UALR lead.
UALR then started getting to the free throw line and converting. Dillard hit a pair, Isler made 1 of 2 and Neighbour made 2 of 3 to keep the lead 75-70. And the Trojans hung on.