We don’t know how much better UALR can be if/when junior point guard J.T. Thomas returns to the lineup. But we do know point guard has been in more than solid hands with junior DeVonte Smith.
Last night in UALR’s 63-59 victory over Texas State, Smith finished with 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 0 turnovers in 27 minutes. But four of his six points were crucial. He kept UALR in front with a key driving layup late. Then helped put the game away with two clutch free throws.
Over the past five games, he’s had 15 assists with just five turnovers. And he’s averaged more than 5 points and nearly 3 rebounds to go with it.
UALR has been pretty inconsistent over the years when making the decision whether or not to foul up three points with just a few seconds remaining.
Last night, the Trojans executed it to perfection when Josh Hagins committed a foul at midcourt with :03 left and UALR leading by 3. Texas State made the first free throw and missed the second intentionally. Hagins grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and made two free throws to ice the game.
UALR has at least two famous losses in recent years as a result of not fouling.
In Porter Moser’s final season in Little Rock, UALR was up three against Pepperdine in a December tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. Pepperdine hit a three-pointer, falling into the UALR bench, to tie it. And UALR lost in overtime.
UALR also lost a five overtime game in Miami against Florida International after a late three-pointer tied it. That time, UALR didn’t foul and FIU missed a game-tying three-pointer. But the ball bounced long off the rim and FIU’s Ivan Almonte grabbed it, dribbled once as he took two of the biggest steps you’ve ever seen, planted a foot inbounds, and banked in a three high off the glass to tie it.
Still waiting to hear something on the ankle injury suffered by sophomore James White last night in San Marcos. He played 13 first-half minutes and was effective, scoring 6 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. But he didn’t play in the second half.
STAT OF THE GAME
UALR outrebounded Texas State 33-25. That included 10-4 in offensive rebounds. Texas State entered the game +4 in rebound margin.
Choosing a player of the game was difficult because there were a couple of great candidates. We went with Will Neighbour because of his team-high 20 points and ability to stay involved in the scoring on a night when he wasn’t making many field goals. Neighbour also took the crucial late charge that helped preserve the victory. Josh Hagins probably should at least be co-player of the game with his 19 points. He had a key second-half basket that stopped a 6-0 Texas State run. Then Hagins drilled a 3 to give UALR the lead.
GLASS HALF FULL
UALR went 12 of 19 in the second half for 63.2 percent. UALR also made 15 of 17 second-half free throws.
GLASS HALF EMPTY
UALR still continues to get very little production out of its top six. Kemy Osse, Maurius Hill, Stetson Billings, Mareik Isom and Gus Leeper combined for 5 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist in 45 minutes of action. We should note that Hill had a key offensive rebound and stickback in the second half though.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Jump The Gun: UALR didn’t lead at all in the first half but maintained contact. Could have been both better and worse. Grade: C+.
15 for Gus: We wanted to see 15 minutes for Gus Leeper and we got it. Leeper played 18 minutes before fouling out with 3 points and 2 rebounds. Grade: B.
White Knight: We can’t really take off points for an injury and James White was pretty good before getting hurt. Grade: B.
WHAT HAPPENEND IN VEGAS
UALR was an underdog on the Las Vegas line by 2.5 points. That makes the Trojans a Vegas winner.
UALR travels to Arlington, Texas, to take on Texas-Arlington on Saturday. UTA lost its Sun Belt opener to Arkansas State on Thursday.