Wes Flanigan found the second half of Wednesday's 71-65 victory much more pleasant to talk about than the first 20 minutes.
Coming back from a 16-point deficit, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock rode a career-high 24-point performance from sophomore Andre Jones to a nonconference victory over the University of Central Arkansas at the Jack Stephens Center.
The Trojans (2-5) connected on 15 of 29 second-half shots, held UCA's leading scorer Jordan Howard to 12 points and were guilty of only one turnover in the final 20 minutes.
"Tonight you saw we are very capable of being a pretty good defensive team," said Flanigan, the Trojans' second-year head coach. "We cleaned up some things defensively. ... I thought in the second half we executed a little better. We made some adjustments and opened up the baseline a little bit."
Jones was the biggest benefactor from the Trojans' second-half comeback. The 6-4 sophomore scored 18 of his points in the second half, finishing 8 of 13 from the floor and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line. He also had 3 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. Oliver Black, the Trojans' 6-9 junior, had 11 of his game-high 16 rebounds in the second half.
"We did not establish our pressure game in the second half and really it started at the end of the first half," UCA associate head coach Anthony Boone said. "They scored a lot of their points off our turnovers and offensive rebounds in the second half."
"The first half we were basically getting a feel for them," Jones said. "In the second half, we just played our game."
"Trust the process," Flanigan said of his halftime talk. "I've got a young group in that locker room and those guys are just now learning how to compete and obviously win at the college level. I mean they don't know what to expect. They don't have any idea what's going on out there."
The Trojans played the part for the first half, making only 9 of 31 shots and committing 9 turnovers. UCA came up with all seven of its steals in the first 20 minutes.
Trailing 8-3 after starting the game by hitting only 1 of 10 shots from the floor, the Bears scored 16 consecutive points in a 5-minute span that eventually led to an 11-point halftime advantage.
Black scored 6 points in the game's first 6:09 in giving the Trojans their 5-point advantage, but he did not score again until the 16:43 mark of the second half with a free throw.
Junior guard Thatch Unruh, who scored the Bears' first 6 points on 2 three-pointers, led UCA with 9 first-half points.
UALR managed to get within 23-18 at the 4:15 mark when Jones connected on a three-pointer from the top of the arc, but the Bears responded by scoring the next 11 points to take their largest lead of the game, 34-18 with 56 seconds remaining in the half.
"We're up 11 at the half, but if we were ahead by 18 or 19, they probably can't come back from that as easily," Boone said. "In the second half, we let them pass it around and started man watching, not seeing the ball and not helping on the drive. We just totally let down on the defensive end."
The Trojans scored 18 of the first 25 points of the second half to forge a 41-41 tie.
UALR took its first lead of the second half on Jaizec Lottie's three-pointer with 13:08 remaining. UCA (4-4) regained the lead on a putback by Otas Iyekekpolor with 8:30 remaining, but a driving layup from Jones 15 seconds later started the Trojans on an 11-3 run.
Howard, a 5-11 guard who was averaging 24.7 points coming into the contest, hit only 4 of 15 shots, including a 2-of-9 effort from beyond the three-point line. Howard, who wound up as the Bears' leading scorer, hit a three-pointer with 30.7 seconds remaining to pull the Bears to within 68-65, but Jones responded with two free throws with 23.1 seconds left that ended UCA's final hopes.
Lottie added 13 points for the Trojans. Unruh and Darraja Parnell each added 11 for the Bears, while freshman center Hayden Koval scored 10.
The Trojans were 24 of 60 (40 percent) from the floor. UCA finished 24 of 64 (37.5 percent) shooting.
It was the 11th consecutive victory for the Trojans in its series with the Bears. UCA, however, holds a 23-13 advantage overall.
SUN BELT MEN
CLEVELAND STATE 75, ARKANSAS STATE 72
Arkansas State University spent the majority of the second half chasing Cleveland State, but a missed layup and turnover in the final five seconds ended the Red Wolves’ effort in Cleveland. Down 70-62 with 5:49 remaining, ASU (2-5) scored the next seven points. Ty Cockfield hit a three-pointer, Tristin Walley made two free throws and Cockfield’s layup with 3:36 trimmed the Cleveland State (2-4) lead to 70-69. Evan Clayborne dunked to end ASU’s run, and Kenny Carpenter made 1 of 2 free throws for a 73-69 lead. Deven Simms made a three-pointer to pull ASU back to within one with 1:10 left, but after the Red Wolves forced a missed shot, Cockfield missed a layup and Simms turned the ball over. Simms scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, grabbed 7 rebounds and had 4 assists for ASU. Walley had 13 points and 7 rebounds, Rashad Lindsey scored 11 points and had 3 assists. Carpenter led all scorers with 17 points for the Vikings.
AUSTIN PEAY 97, ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF 61
Austin Peay (5-1) opened a 27-12 lead at the end of the first quarter and had little problem with the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-3) at the Dunn Center in Clarksville, Tenn. The Governors — who shot 55 percent (33 of 60) from the field, including 54.5 percent on three-pointers (12 of 22) — increased their lead to 50-24 at halftime and 80-42 at the end of the third quarter. Austin Peay had seven players score in double figures, led by Brianah Ferby’s 17 points. UAPB’s Faith Ohanta led all scorers with 25 points. She also pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds. Trasity Totten added 15 points in 19 minutes for the Golden Lions.
Sports on 11/30/2017