ARLINGTON, TX – A long two-point jumper from the top of the key by sophomore Josh Hagins lifted UALR (7-7, 2-0 SBC) to a 72-70 win over UT Arlington (5-9, 0-2 SBC) Saturday afternoon at College Park Center. With the game tied and 31 seconds remaining, UALR dribbled down the clock before Hagins took a pass from DeVonte Smith, pump faked and drained the jumper just as time expired.
“I thought for the most part our guys did a good job rebounding the basketball,” said head coach Steve Shields. “But you’ve got to give a lot of UTA credit. They showed a lot of toughness. I thought they did a great job of driving the basketball – they’ve got some really good guards. They’re very good with the basketball, and that showed in the second half. They’re excellent getting to the rim and getting good looks from three. I thought out guys did a good job of limiting their looks from the 3-point line. But our guys stayed tough, and a lot of credit goes to our seniors, Will (Neighbour) and Leroy (Isler). ”
A made free throw by Smith put UALR up 68-58 with 3:09 remaining, but an 8-0 run by UTA that was capped two Lonnie McLanahan free throws made it a two-point game with 1:30 to play. UTA had a chance to tie it but Kyle McElvain missed a contested jumper, and senior Will Neighbour was fouled on the rebound.
Neighbour went to the opposite foul line and hit both, pushing the Trojans’ lead back to four. But McLanahan scored on the next trip down the floor to get the Mavs back within two. On UALR’s next offensive possession, the Mavs’ Brandon Edwards corralled a missed Hagins jumper and was fouled on the rebound. He hit both free throws to tie the game at 70 with 31 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Hagins’ final shot.
UALR started the game hot, hitting 9 of its first 12 shots before missing 16 straight field goals to end the opening half. Despite its struggles from the field, UALR went into halftime with the score tied at 33-all. The Trojans shot just 32.1 percent over the first 20 minutes but connected on 13 of 20 free throws. UTA hit on 42.9 percent of its shots but was limited to 5 of 7 at the foul line.
The Trojans’ shooting struggles didn’t carry over to the second half, as they connected on four of their first five from the floor to jump out to a 40-35 lead. UALR went up seven on a dunk by sophomore James White at the 15:36 mark, then stretched its lead to nine on a jumper by junior Ben Dillard a little over a minute later.
UALR’s lead was still at nine when Reger Dowell hit a 3-pointer to get the Mavs back within six with 8:12 to play. The Trojans answered with a bucket by junior Gus Leeper on the other end, but UTA rattled off four unanswered to make it 59-55 with 6:19 remaining. A bucket by Hagins put UALR back up six, and a layup by White with 5:20 to play pushed the Troans’ lead to seven, 63-56. A jumper and made free throw by Smith pushed UALR’s lead to double digits for the first time in the half with 3:09 left.
Neighbour tallied his third double-double of the season and 11th of his career with 17 points and 10 rebounds to go along with three blocks and two steals. Playing on an ankle he rolled in Thursday’s win at Texas State, White matched his career best with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Dillard chipped in 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, while Hagins added 10 points, four rebounds and three steals to give the Trojans four players in double figures.
For UTA, McClanahan led four players in double figures with 17 points. Brandon Edwards scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
The two teams finished the night with 37 rebounds each, while UALR held a 36-34 advantage in points in the paint. UTA led 8-6 in second-chance points and the Trojans were able to turn 18 UTA miscues into a 17-12 edge in points off turnovers.
UALR returns to action on Thursday when it hosts South Alabama at the Jack Stephens Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.