That was a big win for our guys,” said head coach Steve Shields following the victory. “Our guys showed some resiliency. This crowd was involved tonight and I thought (South Alabama) played with a lot of energy. We knew they were going to make a run. Matthew Graves does a really good job.”
Down eight following two Neighbour free throws that put UALR’s lead at 38-30 with 15:10 left to play, South Alabama made its move, scoring six unanswered as part of a larger 13-2 run over the next three minutes to build its first lead of the game and go up 43-40.
The Trojans came back with a 5-0 run of their own, regaining the lead on a backdoor slip by sophomore Stetson Billings and going up two on a free throw by Neighbour. Five straight by South Alabama gave the lead back to the Jags, while a 3-pointer by Neighbour tied the game at 48 with 8:32 left.
South Alabama again took the lead on a 3-pointer with just under seven minutes to go. UALR then tied the game at 51 on a putback by freshman Mareik Isom with 5:40 to play. The Jags’ regained a 3-point lead on a jumper by Allen with 3:18 remaining, but a 5-0 run by Isom and Hagins gave UALR a 56-54 lead with 1:25 left in regulation.
The Trojans never relinquished the lead from there. A runner by Allen pulled the Jags within one at 57-56 with 26 seconds remaining. Hagins was fouled on the inbounds and added two more free throws to again push the margin to three. Again, South Alabama answered with a bucket to narrow the margin to one.
After DeVonte Smith was fouled on the subsequent inbounds and hit 1 of 2 at the line, South Alabama had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final 15 seconds. They went to Allen again, but this time his runner was off the mark. UALR grabbed the rebound and Hagins was fouled, hitting both with less than a second remaining to bring the game to its 62-58 final.
Neighbour finished the night with game highs in points and rebounds, and was one board shy of his second straight double-double. He added three blocks and a steal while shooting 6 of 8 from the floor and 9 of 10 from the foul line.
Hagins did the much of his damage at the foul line, hitting 7 of 8 on the night, including 5 of 6 over the final 36 seconds. He added six boards and three steals in 27 minutes off the bench.
Isom scored five points and grabbed a career-high five rebounds in 14 minutes. Senior Leroy Isler pulled down five rebounds on the night.
Augustine Rubit and Allen led USA with 14 points each. Rubit recorded team highs in rebounds (9) and blocks (3). Ken Williams scored three points to give South Alabama three players in double figures.
The win gives UALR the season sweep over South Alabama, and improves the Trojans to 8-1 on the year in games decided by five or fewer points.
Neighbour scored the first seven of the game for the Trojans. Before the opening tip, he connected on two free throws granted because of a pregame technical call on South Alabama. His bucket in the paint gave UALR a 4-0 lead, and his 3-pointer from the top of the key stopped a four-point Jaguar run and put the Trojans up 7-4 less than four minutes in.
Following a putback by Rubit that pulled the Jags within one, UALR put together an 11-0 run to build an 18-6 lead with under 10 minutes to play in the half. The
Jags responded by scoring four unanswered. But UALR countered with a 5-0 run of its own to go up 22-10 with under seven minutes left in the half.
South Alabama would go on a 7-0 run from there, with five of those points coming from the foul line. Two Hagins free throws stopped the run and put UALR up 24-17 at the 3:24 mark.
The Jags pulled within four on a 3-pointer by Williams with just under a minute left in the half. UALR, however, closed the half with a 4-0 run by Hagins to take a 30-22 lead into the locker room.
UALR returns to action this Thursday night when it hosts league-leading Georgia State at the Jack Stephens Center. Start time is set for 7 p.m.
(Courtesy: UALR Sports Information)
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