With neither team at full strength, UALR used a late run to beat Louisiana-Lafayette 80-69 on Thursday night at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
UALR senior Will Neighbour led the Trojans with 24 points and 12 rebounds. A second-half three-pointer put him over 1,000 points for his UALR career. He’s now the sixth player in UALR history to top 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
But it was who wasn’t there that will likely steal the headlines. UALR once again played without sophomore forward James White and junior point guard J.T. Thomas. Louisiana-Lafayette was missing likely first-team all-Sun Belt Conference forward Shawn Long, who was apparently suspended pregame, and Kasey Shepherd, who was injured last Saturday.
Early on, it was the Ragin’ Cajuns, led by point guard Elfrid Payton, taking it to UALR. The Cajuns led by as many as 11 points early in the game.
Both team’s lack of depth on the front line was tested throughout. UALR managed to get some big minutes from freshman Mareik Isom, who finished with 7 points and hit his first three-pointer in 12 games. Louisiana-Lafayette got a mammoth, pun intended, game from J.J. Davenport, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds while facing tremendous abuse from the UALR student section.
But it was UALR shooting 56 percent from the field in the second half and a poorly-timed technical foul on Louisiana-Lafayette Coach Bob Marlin that made the difference.
With Louisiana-Lafayette leading 55-49, UALR’s Leroy Isler seemed to gain brief control of the ball in a scramble. Just as he did, UALR Coach Steve Shields hopped out onto the court and screamed for a timeout. It was granted. Then Marlin protested a bit too much and was given a pretty quick technical foul.
Neighbour made two free throws and the UALR rally was on. Isom and DeVonte Smith made tough layups and then Ben Dillard made two free throws to give UALR a 57-56 lead with 10:55 left.
The lead went back and forth over the next couple of minutes before UALR seized control. Neighbour scored on a putback and, after a turnover by Payton, Kemy Osse converted a three-point play for a 69-63 lead. A putback by Leroy Isler and layups by Smith and Dillard made it 76-66 with 3:16 left.
UALR then put the game to sleep from there.
The Trojans outscored the Cajuns 31-14 after the Marlin technical foul.
Hagins added 14 points for UALR while Dillard had 11.
Payton led Louisiana-Lafayette with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.