UALR Trojans Fight Back Beat Rival Red Wolves

Courtesy UALR Athletics Department and ASU Athletics Department

LITTLE ROCK – Trailing 50-40 with less than 13 minutes to play, the UALR Trojans (17-14, 11-9 SBC) used a 16-0 run to take its first lead of the game and never looked back, as the Trojans capped their regular season with a 78-71 win over Arkansas State (18-11, 12-8 SBC) on Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center. The win gives UALR a 13-3 home record on the year, tying it with the 2007-08 UALR team for the most wins at the Jack Stephens Center in a single season.

“I’m proud of our basketball team; I thought they showed some resiliency tonight,” said head coach Steve Shields. “When you think about it being senior night, Ted Crass symbolizes what this team is about … I’ve never had a guy that brings so much energy each and every day to practice, and pulls for every one of those guys every day.”

The lone senior on the 2012-13 UALR Trojans, Crass was honored in a pregame ceremony and made his first career start in UALR’s win on Saturday, coming up with one steal in three minutes of action.

After allowing ASU to shoot 50 percent in the first half and take a three-point lead into the locker room, UALR limited the Red Wolves to just 9-of-25 shooting in the second half (36.0 percent). UALR knocked down 46.4 percent of its shots in the second half and hit 16-of-20 free throws (80.0 percent) over the final 20 minutes. The Trojans finished the game shooting 82.9 percent from the foul line (29-of-35), while ASU hit just 64.5 percent (20-of-31) of its foul shots.

The finale was without question a physical one.  The Red Wolves’ 30 team fouls were one more than what UALR was called for as five players fouled out between the two teams.

“I feel bad we weren’t able to get it done for our fans, who were here in numbers and great tonight,” said ASU head coach John Brady.  “We didn’t score when we needed to and also had some defensive mistakes which hurt us.  All of the fouls called certainly made it not only a difficult game to play in, but also to coach in.

“I disappointed with the outcome but congratulate UALR on the win.  They were better than us in the second half and that was the difference,” added Brady.

In a game that featured 59 fouls and seven technical fouls, UALR was outrebounded 34-to-28, but finished with a 24-to-6 edge in points-in-the-paint and an 18-to-8 lead in points off turnovers. The Trojans committed just ten turnovers while forcing the Red Wolves into 16 on the night.

Freshman John Gillon led UALR with a career-high 24 points on a 15-of-18 effort at the foul line. Gillon’s 15 made free throws set a new Jack Stephens Center record, breaking John Fowler’s (2007-09) record of 13 set against ULM on Dec. 31, 2008.

Led by Gillon, UALR finished with a 45-to-24 edge in bench scoring.

Junior Leroy Isler was the only other Trojan in double figures, finishing with 13 on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor. Sophomore Michael Javes chipped in nine points in 20 minutes of work.

The Red Wolves’ Marcus Hooten led all scorers on Saturday with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Hooten knocked down all three of his three-point tries and went 4-of-5 at the line. Trey Finn scored 14 points on a 3-of-6 effort from long range.

After pulling within five on a three-pointer by freshman Josh Hagins that made it 45-40 at the 13:44 mark of the second half, UALR surrendered back-to-back buckets to ASU that allowed the Red Wolves to build their largest lead of the game at 50-40. The Trojans then went on one of their most impressive scoring spurts of the season, rattling off nine points in 62 seconds thanks to a four-point play by Gillon, a three-pointer by Isler and a coast-to-coast finish by Gillon. Within one, a jump hook by sophomore Gus Leeper gave UALR its first lead of the game at 51-50 with 10:46 to play.

A layup by Hagins and another bucket by Leeper put the Trojans on top 55-50, and a made free throw by Gillon following a technical called on the ASU bench capped UALR’s 16-0 run and made it 56-50 with just over nine minutes left.

Arkansas State refused to go away, cutting its deficit to three on four occasions over the final nine minutes. A finish at the rim by Hooten at the 2:23 mark got the Red Wolves as close as 68-65, but junior Will Neighbour provided the answer with a fallaway jumper to put the Trojans back up five. Two made free throws by sophomore Ben Dillard pushed the lead to seven, and two more free throws by Gillon built a nine-point lead for the home team with 51 seconds remaining.

A three pointer by Cameron Golden got ASU back within six, but Gillon knocked down UALR’s final four free throws of the night to give UALR the 78-71 victory.

Saturday’s win caps the regular season for UALR, and the Trojans will resume play at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Saturday, March 9 at Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Ark. UALR will be the No. 5-seed at the tournament and will square off against No. 4-seeded FIU on Saturday at 6 p.m.

The Red Wolves now set their sights on the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship Tournament and will have a first-round bye as a result of winning the SBC West Division and receiving the tourney’s No. 2 seed.  ASU will face the opening-round winner of Troy-Florida Atlantic contest next Saturday, March 9, at 9 p.m. (CT) in Hot Springs, Ark. ASU concluded the 2012-13 regular season at 18-11 overall with a first-place 12-8 SBC West Division mark.

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