This season has been one of What Ifs for the UALR Trojans. The latest came on Thursday in a 68-57 loss to Georgia State at the Jack Stephens Center.
The latest what if would be: “What if Will Neighbour hadn’t injured his ankle late in last Saturday’s victory over South Alabama?” Neighbour was largely ineffective on the offensive end on Thursday, scoring just 4 points and attempting only four field goals in 26 minutes. While in the game, his effort could not be questioned. But he was visibly limping and clearly not the same guy who won the Sun Belt Conference’s player of the week award last week.
Teams can’t really use the What If excuse because everyone has to deal with some sort of adversity. UALR has dealt with its share this season. Neighbour was injured just before opening night, Ben Dillard missed games early in the season, J.T. Thomas was lost for the season to an injury and James White missed four games with an injury.
But without Neighbour, UALR just isn’t as potent a team on the offensive end. Clearly, UALR needs more from him on Saturday vs. Western Kentucky. It remains to be seen whether or not his body will allow that to happen.
Louisiana-Lafayette broadcaster Jay Walker wrote a pretty funny piece this week about Georgia State Coach Ron Hunter and Western Kentucky Coach Ray Harper and their seemingly constant presence on the playing floor during the game. Hunter is as active as any coach we’ve seen, hopping around the sideline and disputing every single call that goes against the Panthers. But if officials allow it, there’s not much you can do about it.
STAT OF THE GAME
Georgia State outrebounded UALR 41-35.
Leroy Isler’s lockdown of Georgia State star R.J. Hunter was epic. Hunter finished with 14 points but that total gives the impression that he was more involved than he really was. UALR used Isler to try and no catch Hunter, who seemed to plead with officials every time down the court for a foul against Isler.
Hunter got free a couple of times when Isler wasn’t around. He had a first-half transition layup and a three-pointer after Will Neighbour bought a shot fake. He also hit a second-half three-pointer when Ben Dillard lost track of him. But he got almost nothing when Isler was in his face.
GLASS HALF FULL
James White made a solid return to the UALR lineup with 14 points and 7 rebounds in 29 minutes. He had missed the previous four games with an ankle injury.
GLASS HALF EMPTY
Beyond White, UALR got nothing from its other forwards. Gus Leeper went 0 for 4 from the field and finished with 2 points in six minutes and Mareik Isom went 0 for 3 and didn’t score in 13 minutes. Each had one rebound.
KING PRIAM’S KEYS
GO DEEP: UALR got R.J. Hunter in foul trouble and limited him to 22 minutes. Grade: A.
THREES BELOW 35: Georgia State made 5 of 17 three-pointers for 29.4 percent. Grade: A.
DOMINATE THE GLASS: UALR got outrebounded 41-35, including giving up 11 offensive rebounds. Grade: F.
HANDLE THE PRESSURE: UALR had 13 turnovers against the Georgia State pressure. That number itself wasn’t bad. But it was the timing of the turnovers at crucial points during the game that hurt. Grade: D.
FREE JOSH: Josh Hagins’ shot still seems a bit off. He made 5 of 13 field goal attempts and finished with 11 points. But he also had three crucial turnovers. Grade: C.
WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS
Georgia State ended up a five-point Las Vegas favorite and easily covered that number.
UALR gets Western Kentucky at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center.