The loss moves UALR into a tie with Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State for first place in the Sun Belt's West Division.UALR held a 37-34 lead at the half thanks in large part to an 18-of-20 effort (90 percent) from the foul line over the first 20 minutes. The Trojans ended the game shooting 24-of-30 (80 percent), but finished the night shooting just 31.3 percent from the field (21-of-67) and 20 percent from three-point range (4-of-20). The Trojans' +12 margin on the boards and 21 offensive rebounds helped them to a 23-to-11 advantage in second chance points. Neighbour's career-best 14 boards included five offensive rebounds. Junior Leroy Isler and sophomore Gus Leeper each finished the game with four rebounds.Freshman Josh Hagins was the only other Trojan outside of Neighbour to finish the night in double figures. Hagins scored a career-best 14 points off the bench on 5-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-4 from long range. Isler chipped in seven points and freshman James White contributed six points to go along with a block and two steals off the bench. Sophomore Taggart Lockhart also added six points, thanks in part to a 4-of-4 performance from the free throw line.Louisiana-Lafayette finished the night shooting 49.1 percent from the field (27-of-55) and 36.8 percent from three-point range (7-of-19). The Ragin' Cajuns knocked down 18-of-25 free throws (72 percent) and held a 32-to-22 advantage in points in the paint and led 13-to-8 in points off turnovers.
Bryant Mbamalu scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting to lead the Cajuns on offense. Shawn Long added 10 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, while Elfrid Payton scored 12 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds. Alan-Michael Thompson scored 13 points off the bench to give ULL four players in double figures on the night. After falling behind by as many as 13 in the first half, UALR cut the deficit to two on three separate occasions before taking its first lead of the game on a three pointer by Hagins that made it 35-34 with :52 left in the first half. Following a technical foul call on the Cajuns' Mbamalu, Hagins sank two freebies to give the Trojans a three-point lead heading into the locker room. Louisiana-Lafayette came out of halftime and scored the first four points of the second half to go up one, 38-37, and from there the lead would change hands five times over the next five-plus minutes. Two free throws by Mbamalu regained the lead for the Cajuns at the 14:22 mark, and back-to-back buckets by Mbamalu and Payton put ULL up 51-45 with just under 12 minutes remaining. A three-pointer by ULL's Josh Soto increased the Cajuns lead to eight with just over seven minutes to play, but UALR scored seven of the next nine points to get within three, 64-61, with 4:53 left in the ballgame. The Cajuns answered by scoring four-straight points to get their lead back to seven with 2:32 to play, and two free throws by Thompson increased the Cajuns' cushion to nine with just over a minute remaining. UALR got within seven on a putback by freshman Kemy Osse with :37 ticks left, but that would be as close as the Trojans would get before the final horn sounded. UALR returns to action on Thursday, Jan. 3 when they host Western Kentucky at the Jack Stephens Center as part of a men's and women's doubleheader that can be seen on ESPN3. Tip-off for the men's game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Patrick Newton: Assistant Sports Information Director