UALR guts out another road victory, beating WKU in overtime

UALR gutted out a critical Sun Belt Conference victory on Thursday, beating Western Kentucky 87-83 at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.

UALR rallied from down 8 points late in regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime. Then UALR rallied from six points down in overtime to win. The Trojans are now 3-0 on the road in Sun Belt play this season.

“It’s a credit to our senior leadership,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “We’ve grown from game one when you think back to the north florida game. We’ve continued to get better. Last week we talked about not having the edge that we needed. Tonight we had a good focus.”

UALR is 9-8 on the season and 4-1 in Sun Belt Conference play. Much like UALR had to do last week, WKU played without leading scorer T.J. Price, who was suspended just before gametime. WKU drops to 10-7 overall and 2-2 in Sun Belt play. The Tops are 2-0 on the road and 0-2 at home in Sun Belt play.

Senior Will Neighbour had a career high 32 points and 7 rebounds to lead UALR. He made 11 of 14 field goals and 9 of 11 free throws. He also returned to the game late in regulation after being sidelined after hitting his head on the floor.

“He showed a lot of toughness after hitting his head. We had to get him out of the game. He tapped me on the shoulder and said he’s ready to go back. We needed him at the end of the game,” Shields said.

Sophomores Josh Hagins and Kemy Osse each added 15 and sophomore James White had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Hagins did virtually all of his damage with the game on the line. He nailed a three-pointer with 22 seconds left in regulation to cut Western Kentucky’s lead to 70-69. Then after a UALR foul, WKU’s Brandon Harris made 1 of 2 free throws and UALR got it back. The Trojans went right back to Hagins who hit a short jumper with 8 seconds left to tie the game.

UALR then had to survive a couple of looks to force overtime. First Hagins blocked the three-point attempt of Chris Harrison-Docks and the ball went out of bounds with 3 seconds left. WKU then ran a play for Harris, but his three-pointer at the buzzer was also blocked by Hagins.

WKU got off to a fast start in overtime when Alex Rostov hit back to back three-pointers to give the Hilltoppers a 77-71 lead. But UALR clawed back again. Osse hit a tough jumper, then stole the ball and scored on a layup for a 77-75 score with 2:42 remaining.

After missed three-pointers by Harrison-Docks and Rostov, Neighbour drove and hit a tough runner for a 77-77 score with 1:44 left.

George Fant made two free throws to put WKU back up 2 points, but Hagins answered with a step back three-pointer, silencing the Diddle crowd and giving UALR an 80-79 lead with :55 left.

WKU came right back and Harrison-Docks hit a baseline jumper with 32 seconds left to give the Hilltoppers an 81-80 lead. But UALR answered again. This time White slipped a perfect pass to Neighbour for a wide-open layup and an 82-81 Trojans’ lead.

WKU had its chance when Fant grabbed an offensive rebound. But his putback was blocked by White and Neighbour grabbed the rebound. He hit two free throws with 7 seconds left for an 84-81 lead.

UALR then chose to intentionally foul to prevent a three-pointer. And Harrison-Docks made both free throws for an 84-83 score. UALR inbounded to Hagins and he made two free throws to push the lead back to 86-83. WKU threw a long pass toward center court that was intercepted by Hagins, who made a free throw to ice the victory.

UALR shot 58.2 percent from the field, including 5 of 9 from three-point range. UALR also made 18 of 22 free throws and outrebounded Western Kentucky 31-30.