South Alabama’s Augustine Rubit hit a three-pointer with 15:46 left in the game. UALR Coach Steve Shields called timeout with his team trailing 49-38 and laid it on the line for them.
“Coach said we have to take care of each other, have each other’s back,” said junior point guard DeVonte Smith.
It had to come at the defensive end. And it did. Eleven consecutive times, UALR turned South Alabama away without a point. That allowed UALR to flip the script on the Jaguars and the Trojans came from behind to win 65-60.
“I thought we had a lot more energy, passion on the defensive end to get stops,” Shields said.
Some were quick possessions. Others were long with UALR having to turn the Jags away multiple times. The common theme was points. South Alabama wasn’t scoring any.
Eventually UALR started clicking on offense. And the Trojans scored six points on two possessions to turn a 49-46 deficit into a 52-49 lead.
First, sophomore Kemy Osse, who was struggling with his shot, drained a three-pointer to tie the game 49-49 with 8:50 left. Then South Alabama’s Aakim Santil quickly turned the ball over. UALR ran some offense and Smith scored on a layup as he was fouled with 8:30 left. His free throw gave UALR a 52-49 lead.
“You hope to continue to build on that. Every conference game is a possession game and a lot end up going down to a possession here or there,” Shields said. “We’ve been good in games decided by 5 or fewer points this year. We’ve got to continue to be.”
UALR continues to get solid contributions from junior Gus Leeper, even if they don’t completely show in the statistics. On Thursday, Leeper played 11 minutes and had 6 points without pulling down a rebound. But Leeper did a pretty solid job blocking out when he was in there. He might not have been getting those rebounds, but his man wasn’t either.
DeVonte Smith turned in a Zack Graber-esque performance on Thursday night. Smith played the entire 40 minutes, scoring 7 points and adding 10 rebounds and 6 assists. He also had only one turnover.
“Anytime you lose your second-leading scorer [Josh Hagins] and your starting point guard [J.T. Thomas] is sitting over there in sweats, you know DeVonte is going to have to play the entire 40 minutes,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “I told him coming in, we can’t get him in foul trouble and have success.”
STAT OF THE GAME
After starting 5 of 6 from three-point range, South Alabama made only 4 of 28 the rest of the way. That equals 14.3 percent.
GLASS HALF FULL
UALR continued to shoot a torrid level from three-point range at 40 percent on Thursday. It’s the result of taking good shots from distance. The Trojans made 4 of 10 including the first trey of the season for James White.
GLASS HALF EMPTY
UALR gave up 13 offensive rebounds to South Alabama on Thursday. The only positive of that was that those 13 rebounds only translated into nine points scored.
KING PRIAM’S KEYS
Reel In Rubit: South Alabama’s Augustine Rubit had 22 points and 13 rebounds. At least he didn’t get 30. Grade: B-.
Line Time: UALR needed to get to make at least 15 free throws. The Trojans ended up making 17 of 23. That’s important because USA is now 1-6 when its opponent makes 15 free throws. Grade: A.
In the Sixties: It didn’t look like UALR was going to pass this one at halftime after giving up 40 points. But the Trojans responded by holding South Alabama to 20 points in the second half. When the Jaguars score fewer than 70 points, they are 0-8 on the season. Grade: A.
WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS
Even with sophomore Josh Hagins announced out of the lineup, UALR was still a two-point Vegas favorite at tipoff. And the Trojans covered with a five-point victory. UALR is now 2-0 this season when a Vegas favorite.
UALR hosts Troy on Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center. Troy absolutely hammered Arkansas State on Thursday in Jonesboro.