Trojans Bounce Back With 77-68 Win Over Louisiana on Thursday

Courtesy University of Arkansas at Little Rock Athletics Department

LITTLE ROCK – Led by junior Will Neighbour’s seventh career double-double, the UALR Trojans (16-14, 10-9 SBC) topped Louisiana (11-19, 7-12 SBC) by a 77-68 final Thursday night at the Jack Stephens Center. UALR put five players in double figures for just the second time this season and finished the night shooting 49.0 percent from the floor. 

“I’m proud of our guys effort; I thought it was a good team win,” said head coach Steve Shields. “I thought we shared the basketball well. We need to value the ball better than what we did the entire night, but you have to give (Louisiana) credit for that.” 

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Trojans and improved UALR’s record to 12-3 this season at the Jack Stephens Center. 

Neighbour totaled 17 points, 11 rebounds and a career-best tying three blocks in 33 minutes on Thursday. The Grayshott, England-native was 3-of-4 from long range and 6-of-8 from the foul stripe. Freshman Josh Hagins finished 5-of-6 from the floor and matched his career highs in points (14) and rebounds (7), while freshman John Gillon and sophomore Ben Dillard scored 13 points each. Junior Leroy Isler added 10 points and five rebounds to give UALR five players in double figures. 

The UALR bench outscored the Ragin’ Cajuns reserves 27-to-1 on the night, led by a combined 26 from Gillon and Dillard. 

The Trojans hit 6-of-14 three-point tries (42.9 percent) and connected on 23-of-29 foul shots (79.3 percent). UALR’s defense limited UL to just 35.0 percent shooting on the night, including 20.0 percent from three-point range.

The Cajuns finished with four players in double figures. Shawn Long led UL with 19 points and eight rebounds. Alan-Michael Thompson added 18 points, Elfrid Payton chipped in 17 and Bryant Mbamalu scored 13 in a losing effort. 

The Trojans were able to build a 36-26 lead at halftime after shooting 51.9 percent over the first 20 minutes and limiting UL to just 27.6 percent from the field. Trailing 15-17 near the ten-minute mark of the first half, a bucket by Neighbour jump started an 18-2 run over the next six-plus minutes that built a 33-19 lead for the Trojans, capped by a trey from Neighbour at the 3:43 mark.

Louisiana cut UALR’s lead to eight on consecutive dunks by Shawn Long with just over 17 minutes remaining, but UALR answered with a trey by Gillon to push its lead back to 11. The Trojans increased their lead to 12 on an old-fashioned three-point play by Gillon at the 14:48 mark, and went up by as many as 16 on another finish by Gillon with 10:59 left to play.

The Cajuns began chipping away at UALR’s lead over the final ten minutes, cutting it to six on a three-pointer by Thompson with 7:23 to play, and getting as close as four on two free throws by Payton that made it 62-58 with 5:28 remaining. Neighbour provided an immediate answer, draining a corner three in front of the Trojans’ bench to get the UALR lead back to seven, and two free throws by Dillard on the Trojans’ next possession put the home team up nine.

A couple of free throws by Isler pushed UALR’s lead to 11 with less than a minute to play, and two more freebies from Dillard made it 77-65 with 36 seconds left. A free throw by Payton and dunk by Long with 10 seconds left brought the game to its 77-68 final.

UALR returns to action on Saturday when it plays its regular season finale against in-state rival Arkansas State at the Jack Stephens Center at 7 p.m. Ted Crass, the lone senior on the 2012-13 Trojans, will be honored in a pregame ceremony.

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