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UALR Breaks Losing Streak
By Wess Moore, FOX 16 Sports Director
TROY, AL – The UALR men’s basketball (13-15, 8-8 SBC) team held on for a 62-55 win over Troy (9-18, 4-11 SBC) Thursday night at Trojan Arena. Leading by as many as 11 in the second half, UALR let its lead shrink to three with 1:12 remaining before scoring the game’s final four points to hold on for the win and snap a five-game losing streak.
The victory is the 100th Sun Belt win in the career of head coach Steve Shields, making him just the fifth coach in conference history to hit the milestone.
The win also assures UALR of a bid to this year’s Sun Belt Tournament in New Orleans, La., March 13-16.
Junior Ben Dillard scored 18 points on a 4-of-8 effort from the floor and a perfect 8-of-8 performance at the foul line. Senior Leroy Isler and sophomore Josh Hagins scored eight points each. Junior Gus Leeper chipped in seven points and four rebounds.
UALR held a 32-30 edge on the glass and outscored Troy 28-20 in the paint. UALR’s reserves held a 22-6 edge in bench scoring, led by Hagins and Leeper.
Down 29-24 at the half, Troy scored eight of the first 11 points after intermission to tie the game at 32-all. UALR immediately answered with two free throws by Dillard to retake the lead, eventually pushing its lead out to six on two more Dillard free throws at the 11:59 mark.
A transition finish by freshman Maurius Hill put the Trojans up 44-36 with 10:24 to play. Dillard followed with a triple to push UALR’s lead to 11, its largest of the game, with 9:32 remaining.
Troy battled back to cut the deficit to four on a 3-pointer by Hunter Willliams, then to three on a free throw by Jeff Mullahey with 5:28 to go. Hagins answered with a bucket following an offensive board, then Isler added a field goal on UALR’s next possession to put the Trojans up 58-51 with 3:36 to play, forcing a Troy timeout.
Another Williams 3-pointer with 3:23 cut UALR’s lead to 58-54. Following a two-minute drought for both teams, Antoine Myers hit one of two at the line to pull Troy within three with 1:12 to play.
After both teams came up empty on their next possessions, Dillard was fouled and hit both free throws to put UALR up 60-55. Following another empty possession for Troy, Hagins hit two free throws with two seconds remaining to ice the game.
Tevin Calhoun led Troy with 16 points on the night. Mullahey and Williams added 12 each.
UALR scored the first seven points of the game, but Troy answered with 9 of the next 12 to make it 10-9 on Tevin Calhoun’s layup with 14:29 to play in the half. Troy continued its run to tie the game at 14-all on a 3-pointer by Wes Hinton with 11:33 to play in the half.
Gus Leeper scored back-to-back buckets for the Trojans to push UALR’s lead back to five, 22-17, with under eight minutes to go in the half. Following a Troy turnover, James White added a dunk in transition to make it a seven-point lead for the Trojans.
Troy whittled UALR’s lead down to two before another bucket by Leeper made it 27-23 with less than three minutes to play in the half. DeVonte Smith pumped fake before finishing in the paint to make it a five-point cushion for the Trojans heading into halftime.
UALR is back in action this Saturday against Arkansas State at the Jack Stephens Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.