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story.lead_photo.caption UALR’s Ben Marcus (24) dunks in two of his eight points in the Trojans’ 77-63 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday night at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

The UALR men's basketball team lost its sixth game in the past seven in a 77-63 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt Conference opener Friday night at the Jack Stephens Center.

It was the largest loss in a conference opener since the Trojans (3-11, 0-1 Sun Belt) lost 86-62 to South Alabama on Dec. 19, 1992, a season after the University of Arkansas at Little Rock joined the Sun Belt.

The Trojans never led in Friday's loss and trailed 18-2 midway through the first half, which showed little improvement from the program's worst nonconference record since the 2011-2012 season.

"The hole we dug ourselves [tonight] was way too much to overcome," Flanigan said. "The hole we dug ourselves is something that, with our team right now, we can't come out of those holes. No matter how hard we fought."

Louisiana-Lafayette (11-3, 1-0) entered the game scoring the nation's 20th most points per game (86.4), and UALR entered the game last in the nation (62.5).

Both teams lived up to their billing.

The Trojans started off the game 0 for 5 shooting, and Louisiana-Lafayette built a 6-0 lead entirely on points in the paint. The Trojans were also outrebounded 6-3 during the stretch, which lasted until a media timeout with 16:29 left in the first half.

Out of the break, UALR junior guard Anthony Black delivered a backdoor pass to junior forward Oliver Black, whose dunk provided his team's first points. The Trojans only scored once more in the next five minutes.

While UALR struggled, the Ragin' Cajuns were making three-pointers.

With 16:13 left in the first half, UALR sophomore guard Andre Jones missed a fastbreak layup, which turned into a transition three-pointer by Louisiana-Lafayette's Frank Bartley IV to extend his team's lead to 11-2. Sophomore guard Ben Marcus missed a layup for UALR with 13:25 left, which turned into another transition three-pointer from Louisiana-Lafayette's Malik Marquetti for the 18-4 lead.

Flanigan called a 30-second timeout.

"We knew there wasn't going to be anything easy at the rim, and to be honest with you, we went in there and played a little soft," Flanigan said. "We got to do a better job there."

The transition play improved, as Marcus made a wrap-around layup with 9:51 left in the half, and Jones produced a fastbreak layup to pull within 20-8.

With 9:09 left in the half, Louisiana-Lafayette grabbed two offensive rebounds in one possession, and senior guard Johnathan Stove was fouled as he made a layup. The free throw extended the lead to 23-8. On the next possession, Stove grabbed another offensive rebound, recovered his own missed layup and was fouled making a shot. His free throw put Louisiana-Lafayette up 26-8.

UALR was outrebounded 26-14 in the first half, leading to Louisiana-Lafayette's 16 second-chance points.

UALR sophomore guard Ryan Pippins made two shots from the left baseline, one beyond the arc, but Louisiana-Lafayette followed with a 9-0 run to go up 38-15 with 4:05 left in the half.

The Trojans opened the second half with a 6-0 run to pull within 42-30.

Anthony Black made a three-pointer from the right wing after a steal, then Jones drew a charge, which produced another three-pointer from UALR freshman forward Damir Hadzic. Moments later, a Jones dunk made it 46-32.

The fast pace played to Louisiana-Lafayette's advantage as it scored on its next four possessions.

The Ragin' Cajuns were 20 of 24 (83.3 percent) from the free-throw line while UALR was 3 of 12 (25 percent). It was the Trojans' lowest free-throw percentage of the season.

UALR will host Louisiana-Monroe on Sunday at 4 p.m.

SUN BELT MEN

ARKANSAS STATE 75,

LOUISIANA-MONROE 64

Arkansas State University outscored Louisiana-Monroe 40-23 in the second half in recovering from a six-point halftime deficit to win its Sun Belt Conference opener at First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro.

The Warhawks (6-6, 0-1) led 41-35 at halftime before the Red Wolves (6-8, 1-0) opened the second half on a 15-8 run to eventually take the lead at 50-49 on Tamas Bruce's layup with 11:58 remaining.

ASU then went on a 10-0 spree to lead 60-49 with 5:09 left before Travis Munnings ended the run by making one of two free throws for the Warhawks, their only attempts of the game.

Louisiana-Monroe outshot ASU 45 percent to 41.7 percent and outrebounded the Red Wolves 25-21, but ASU made 25 of 30 free throws (83.3 percent).

Four ASU players scored in double figures with Grantham Gillard leading the way with 19 points. Deven Simms scored 17, while Ty Cockfield and Tamas Bruce had 15 and 10, respectively.

Munnings led all players with 22 points.

Sports on 12/30/2017

Print Headline: UALR men labor from opening tip

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