|Updated: 1/20/2012 8:33 am
||Published: 1/19/2012 10:17 pm
LITTLE ROCK – The UALR men’s basketball team (8-12, 5-1) suffered its first Sun Belt Conference loss of the season on Thursday night at the Jack Stephens Center, falling to Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns, 68-49, after shooting just 25.4 percent from the field. The Trojans entered the game in first place in the West Division with a perfect 5-0 mark in conference play, but went 2-of-18 from three-point range and were outrebounded 52-to-35 by Louisiana (10-10, 4-2).
“In conference play you have to have an edge every time you come to the floor. Bottom line, I didn’t do a very good job preparing our team to have an edge tonight. I’ll take the blame for it. I’m not going to put it on those guys in the locker room,” said UALR head coach Steve Shields. “We have to have intensity, enthusiasm, togetherness and passion every time we come to the floor. That’s the edge. We’re only as good as the level that we can sustain over time.”
Alan-Michael Thompson came off the bench to score a game-high 14 points and J.J. Thomas added 12 in reserve to help UL’s bench outscore the Trojan reserves 36-to-18. Thomas and Darshawn McClellan grabbed nine rebounds apiece, and Josh Brown added 10 points and eight boards to help the Ragin’ Cajuns to a +17 margin on the glass.
UL shot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half and used a 19-4 run to take control of the game for good. UALR trailed 38-22 at the break after going 8-of-32 from the field, and was unable to get any closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Sophomore Chuck Guy paced the Trojans with 11 points, followed by 10 points each from seniors Courtney Jackson and D’Andre Williams. UALR forced UL into 22 turnovers and enjoyed an 18-to-4 scoring edge in points off turnovers, but could not overcome its offensive shortcomings.
UALR struggled from the onset of Thursday’s game, making just 3-of-15 from the field over the first nine minutes as the Ragin’ Cajuns built a 19-7 lead. UALR led 7-5 early on, but the Ragin’ Cajuns ripped off a 12-2 spurt as part of a larger 19-4 run to go on top 24-11 with 8:24 to go. Thompson, who led all players with 14 points in the first half, scored seven points during the 19-4 run to help UL take control.
A bucket by junior Eric Lawton brought the Trojans within 10 points, 28-18, but back-to-back three pointers by Thompson and McClellan allowed UL to extend its lead to 16 points, 34-18. Thompson came through with a four-point conversion moments later after drawing a foul on a made three pointer to give UL its largest lead of the half, 38-20.
The Ragin’ Cajuns took a 38-22 lead into the intermission after shooting 55.6 percent from the floor (15-of-27) with a commanding +16 rebounding margin (28-to-12). UL went 5-of-9 from three-point range, with Thompson going a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
UALR was unable to mount a comeback in the second half, as the Ragin’ Cajuns had an answer every time the Trojans tried to trim the lead. A bucket by Williams and two free throws from freshman Ben Dillard made it a 12-point contest, 59-47, with 3:28 remaining, but Thomas scored a basket in the paint and hit a three pointer to extend UL’s lead to 17 points, 64-47.
UALR returns to action Saturday at 1 p.m. when it squares off against Western Kentucky at E.A. Diddle Arena. The game will be televised by Fox College Sports.