The rim had hardly stopped vibrating from the last dunk when Andre Jones flipped a pass from the baseline to a hurtling Kris Bankston, whose right-handed tomahawk sent the home bench into pandemonium and his team into its largest lead, 66-50, over the preseason conference favorite.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock men's basketball team was on its way to a 77-65 victory over Texas-Arlington on Thursday night at the Jack Stephens Center, possibly the most convincing conference victory in Wes Flanigan's two years as the Trojans' head coach.
UALR (5-13, 2-3 Sun Belt) ended its two-game losing streak with its largest conference victory since Jan. 21 of last season, when the Trojans beat South Alabama 73-56. UALR beat Texas-Arlington (11-7, 2-3) for the first time under Flanigan. The last victory over the Mavericks came in a 72-60 decision Feb. 25, 2016 -- when the Trojans won the Sun Belt tournament.
UALR, which moved out of a five-way tie at the bottom of the conference standings, led the entire game and by as many as 14 points.
"We just have to keep improving and hopefully build on this," Flanigan said. "Because it validates some of the things we've been talking about in the locker room."
Before the game, Jones, a sophomore guard, said Flanigan told the team, 'Let's send a message to the whole conference.' Jones scored a game-high 24 points with 8 rebounds and 2 assists.
Freshman guard Jaizec Lottie scored a career-high 16 points, 13 in the first half. His play fueled the Trojans into a 13-2 run that was capped with a resounding dunk by Jones, who received a backdoor pass from junior forward Oliver Black with 5:27 left in the first half to lead 32-20.
The Mavericks struggled to get near the basket offensively. They had come into the game with the league's fifth-ranked three-point percentage (35.3) but were just 2 of 11 from three-point range at halftime where they trailed 39-32.
Texas-Arlington finished 6 of 29 (20.7) from three-point range.
"We wanted them to shoot as many threes as they did," Flanigan said. "Obviously if they make a lot of those, it's a problem."
Texas Arlington senior forward Kevin Hervey, the Sun Belt preseason Player of the Year, led the Mavericks on a 10-3 run by scoring nine points, including a dunk with 29 seconds left in the first half. Hervey, who finished the game with 21 points, opened the second half with a layup and three-pointer that helped tie the game 39-39 with 18:33 left.
The run led to a UALR timeout.
"You really don't want to know what I said," Flanigan said. "But I just challenged our guys. And usually, typically, with this group -- and this is why I've been pretty excited about coaching this group this year -- pretty much whenever I challenge these dudes, they respond."
Texas-Arlington scored three more baskets in the next nine minutes. The Mavericks had six turnovers during the stretch, including a steal and layup by Jones to set UALR up 52-43 with 13:29 remaining.
The defensive effort produced a 9-0 Trojans run, which was capped by a steal by Camron Reedus, who threw a full-court pass to junior guard Ben Marcus for a 57-43 lead.
Minutes later, Marcus dunked from the left baseline. Jones then rebounded a missed Mavericks' three-pointer, drove full court and flipped the pass back to freshman forward Bankston for the final dunk.
TEXAS STATE 73,
ARKANSAS STATE 67
Tre’Larenz Nottingham scored 17 points to lead Texas State (11-7, 4-1 Sun Belt) to a victory over Arkansas State University at First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro.
Nijal Pearson and Immanuel King both scored 13 points for Bobcats, who shot 50.9 percent (27 of 53) from the floor while making 8 of 20 three-pointers. Devn Simms led the Red Wolves (6-12, 1-4) with 23 points while making 9 of 15 shots field goals. Grantham Gillard finished with 15 points on 5 of 10 shooting.
Sports on 01/12/2018
Print Headline: UALR men climb out of cellar