If basketball was scored on effort alone, UALR would have won going away Thursday night. Alas, attrition finally caught up with the Trojans in a 93-87 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in double overtime at the Cajundome in Lafayette.
Almost unbelievably short-handed UALR rallied from 19 points down to force not one, but two overtimes before finally succumbing. The Trojans finished the final seconds of the game with just four players available.
That’s because UALR entered the game without senior forward Will Neighbour (ankle) and senior guard Leroy Isler (hamstring). During the game, UALR lost sophomore guard Kemy Osse to a knee injury. And in the game, James White, Stetson Billings, Ben Dillard and Maurius Hill fouled out. That left the Trojans with just DeVonte Smith, Josh Hagins, Mareik Isom and Andrew Poulter to finish the game.
“We came down here to win this game,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “I’m very proud of our basketball team. We never use excuses. I thought our guys showed a lot of effort, togetherness and courage.”
Josh Hagins had 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists to lead UALR. Smith added 16 points and Dillard had 10. But UALR gut an unreal effort from freshman Maurius Hill with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Hill entered the game having scored only 30 points the entire season.
The loss of Neighbour, UALR’s leading scorer and rebounder, and Isler, UALR’s best defender, should have been enough to take the Trojans completely out of the game. And early on it looked that way with Louisiana-Lafayette jumping out to a 19-point first-half lead. But the Trojans didn’t quit, mounting a massive comeback.
A late first-half run cut the halftime lead to 47-35 but with 7:45 remaining, UALR still trailed by 11 points. But they kept chipping away. And down 3 with less than a minute to play, Hagins delivered a three-pointer to tie the game 72-72. UALR then survived a missed jumper late by Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton to send the game to overtime.
UALR trailed most of the overtime period as well before tying it 78-78 on a layup by Hagins with 26 seconds left. Louisiana-Lafayette went to Payton again and he delivered a bank shot from the top of the key to give the Cajuns a 2 point lead with 2 seconds left.
UALR tried to inbound the ball to Hagins but Payton unbelievably grabbed him and a foul was called. After multiple timeouts by Louisiana-Lafayette, Hagins hit both free throws to send the game to double overtime.
Louisiana-Lafayette led 83-82 in the second overtime when the game’s key sequence came up. Hagins turned the ball over for UALR with a chance for the lead. On ULL’s possession, Shawn Long threw the ball away on a dunk attempt but it squirted right to teammate Kevin Brown. He missed a three-pointer by Bryant Mbamalu grabbed the rebound and scored for an 85-82 lead. UALR turned it over again on its next possession and Mbamalu scored on a layup as he was fouled. His free throw made it 88-82 with 41 seconds left.
UALR got to within 91-87 on a three-pointer by Smith with 10 seconds left. But the Trojans had to foul and Hill committed his fifth foul. With no more available substitutes, UALR had to play the final seconds with just four players.