Big First Half Propels Little Rock to Fifth Straight Win

Local Sports

LITTLE ROCK, AR – A dominating first half helped propel Little Rock to a 26-point lead, then the Trojans held off a late Coastal Carolina rally for a 96-79 victory at the Jack Stephens Center. The win is the fifth-straight for the Trojans, upping their Sun Belt record to 10-2 and remaining in first place in the league standings while improving to 16-7 overall.

“I was very pleased with our team’s performance in the first half, but wish we could have done a better job closing them out in the second,” said head coach Darrell Walker. “I was proud of how we performed at the free throw line and it was a good team win where a lot of people contributed.”

The win gives the Trojans the season sweep of Coastal Carolina for the first time in program history while keeping Little Rock a game and a half in first in the Sun Belt standings following Georgia State’s win over South Alabama.

Game Notes

• Little Rock shot 49.1% from the floor, hitting 26-of-53 shots, and were impressive from the free throw line, knocking down 39 of 47 attempts, including going 26-of-29 in the first half. The Trojans limited Coastal Carolina to 37.7% shooting and just 5-of-30 from three-point range.

• The 96 points is the most by the Trojans this year and marks a game-high in points under Darrell Walker since the 97-76 win over Howard last season. The 58 points in the first half is the most for Little Rock this season.

• Five players finished in double figures, led by a career-high 22 points from Marko Lukic on 4-of-5 shooting and 12-of-13 from the free throw line. Lukic also knocked down 2-of-3 from three point range.

• Ruot Monyyong recorded his Sun Belt-best 13th double-double of the season, finishing with 17 points and 13 rebounds to go along with three blocks. Monyyong surpasses Rashad Jones-Jennings’ 12 double-doubles in 2006-07 for the program’s single season record.

• Markquis Nowell nearly added a double-double of his own, finishing with 14 points and a career-high nine assists with five steals. Nowell was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line and remains the Sun Belt’s leader in free throw percentage.

• Nikola Maric added 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench, shooting 5-of-10 from the floor with a pair of steals. Kamani Johnson added 11 points and three boards as the fifth player to reach double figures.

• Jaizec Lottie scored six points and dished out four assists, registering three rebounds and three steals in another solid performance off the bench.

• Coastal Carolina held a 44-37 rebounding edge, including 21-9 on the offensive glass. It led to a 20-8 advantage in second chance points but Little Rock’s transition game proved tough to beat, outscoring the Chanticleers 34-14.

First Half Notes

• Little Rock’s defense was the story early, keeping Coastal without a field goal for the first 6:33 and building an 11-4 lead. Both teams struggled holding on to the ball early, committing a combined eight turnovers through the first six minutes with a combined 12 fouls.

• A 9-3 run by the Chanticleers pulled Coastal to within one at 12-11 with 13:05 to play in the first, but a 10-0 run by Little Rock doubled up the Chants 22-11, thanks to an and-one from Johnson. Four different Trojans scored during the run.

• The run extended to 20-1 over a three minute span, breaking the first half open at 32-12. Six different players registered points, including five from Nowell, capped by a 35-foot shot to put the Trojans up by 21.

• Little Rock’s defense once again proved a source of frustration for Coastal Carolina as the Chanticleers went six and a half minutes from the 13:05 mark to the 6:38 mark without a field goal. During that time, Little Rock extended its lead to 26 at 43-17, shooting nearly 70% from the floor and going 18-of-20 from the free throw line.

• The Trojans maintained a 20-point advantage for the duration of the half, taking a 58-35 lead into the half. The 58 points is the most in a half this season for Little Rock as the Trojans shot 26-of-29 from the free throw line (89.7%). Little Rock held Coastal Carolina to 26.5% from the floor as the Chants were 9-of-34 shooting and 1-of-15 from three.

Second Half Notes

• Little Rock’s lead reached 26 once again early in the second half off an and-one from Coupet. Monyyong grabbed pair of rebounds during the stretch to give him his 13th double-double of the season, breaking the program’s single-season record, held by Rashad Jones-Jennings in 2006-07.

• Coastal Carolina slowly chipped away at the Trojan lead, getting the deficit under 20 at 69-54 with 10:22 remaining off a 12-2 run. Little Rock was held without a field goal for nearly four and a half minutes, ended by a running hook shot in the lane by Maric.

• Another Coastal Carolina run got it back to 15 at 71-56 with 9:16 remaining, but back-to-back dunks from Palermo and Monyyong extended the lead back to 19 at 75-56 at the 8:45 mark.

• The Chanticleers kept chipping away at the Little Rock lead, using an 11-1 run to turn an 81-60 Little Rock lead to just 82-71 with 3:03 remaining. A free throw from Maric, followed by a three from the corner from Lukic helped stop the surge, upping its led back to 15 at 86-71 at the 2:30 mark.

• Up 12 at 88-76, Little Rock put the game away with an 8-0 run over the final minute and a half, hitting six free throws with a dunk from Monyyong.

Up Next

• Little Rock looks to maintain its lead atop the Sun Belt Saturday when the Trojans host Appalachian State. Opening tip against the Mountaineers is set for 2 p.m.

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