Senior Will Neighbour had 20 points and sophomore Josh Hagins had 19 as UALR came from behind to beat Texas State 63-59 in the Sun Belt Conference opener in San Marcos, Texas.
“Just a tough, tough, good win for our guys,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “I thought we were much tougher in the second half.”
Neighbour scored that game-high 20 points despite making just 4 of 15 field goal attempts. He made up for it by making 11 of 13 free throws and adding 2 blocks, 2 steals and taking a late charge as UALR clung to a lead.
The Trojans played the entire second half without sophomore James White, who rolled an ankle in the first half. He had 6 points and 5 rebounds in 13 minutes. And he was missed with the Trojans in serious foul trouble. Gus Leeper fouled out, leaving UALR really thin on the front line. But UALR did enough down the stretch to put it away.
UALR made 20 of 25 free throws for the game and made 65 percent of their second-half field goals.
UALR clung to a narrow lead throughout the second half. Up one, UALR had a chance to put the game away when Josh Hagins missed. The ball was tied up on the rebound, giving Texas State the ball.
Texas State went for the win. Joel Wright barreled into the lane and ran into Neighbour. A charge was called, giving the Trojans the ball back. Texas State fouled UALR’s DeVonte Smith with 5.2 seconds left.
Smith made both free throws for a 61-58 lead and UALR called timeout. When Texas State got the ball to center court, Hagins fouled, preventing a game-tying three-point shot.
“I normally don’t,” Shields said about the decision to foul. “I thought our guys did a good job there late when we decided to foul. Josh got him right at the half court line before they could attempt a shot. Those are little things that become big things.”
Texas State made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second and Hagins grabbed the rebound. He made two free throws for the 63-59 final.