UALR Coach Steve Shields has had a lot of different types of teams in his time with the Trojans. Different years have featured different strengths and weaknesses. But typically they have a DNA that is easy to recognize.
This year is an exception. UALR’s inability to defend the three-point line is baffling and is one of the major factors still holding this team back. And the Trojans will look to improve in that area when they host Texas State at 7 p.m. tonight at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
Nationally, teams are making 34.2 percent of their three-point shots. UALR has allowed opponents to shoot higher than 34 percent in 13 of its 18 games played this season.
That’s bad. But even worse is the fact that the problem appears to be getting worse. UALR has allowed opponents to shoot above 40 percent from three-point range in five of its six Sun Belt Conference games. The only exception was South Alabama’s 9 of 34 for 26 percent. It should be noted that USA actually made 5 of its first 6 three-point attempts. No idea what happened after that.
UALR gave up 46 percent to Texas State, 42 percent to Texas-Arlington, 43 percent to Troy, 45 percent to Western Kentucky and 44 percent to Georgia State.
That brings us to tonight. Texas State attempts about 15 three-pointers per game and shoots just under the national average at 33.9 percent. The Bobcats made 5 of 11 in the first meeting with UALR.
Texas State isn’t really that bad a three-point shooting team if you take away the 1 of 24 that Victor Bermudez has put up. Everyone else is shooting a combined 37 percent. Five players are shooting 39 percent or better.
Since basically the same defensive philosophy is being utilized by UALR, it comes down to talent and desire to contest these attempts. If this UALR team is as talented as we believe it can be, this is an area it will have to improve.
It doesn’t seem right to be playing Texas State a second time when UALR has yet to face Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe or Arkansas State. But here we are.
UALR appears to still be without J.T. Thomas. He has an injury that will ultimately require surgery. It’s not known whether or not he can return this season. Complicating matters is the possibility that Thomas could get a medical redshirt. He meets all the criteria except one. That is the fact that he has already used a redshirt year. But it’s not unheard of for a player to get a sixth year of eligibility.
KING PRIAM’S KEYS
Threes below 35: See above. Holding Texas State to no better than the low 30s in three-point shooting percentage is a need.
Js for Josh: This we know for sure: When Josh Hagins plays well, UALR plays well.
Smash the Glass: Texas State has given up 52 more offensive rebounds than it has secured this season. UALR has to hit the glass hard tonight.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS?
UALR is a five-point favorite tonight. The Trojans have only been favored in three previous games this season, beating Jacksonville State and South Alabama and losing to Troy.