Midway through the first half, the game was playing to recent form.
The Trojans, energized by their quality performances in the past two games, had a 13-point lead over a Red Wolves team that had lost five consecutive games.
It appeared Wes Flanigan was going to get his first victory over in-state rival Arkansas State University in his second year as the head coach of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock men's basketball team.
By game's end, after the Red Wolves made a season-high 13 three-pointers, first-year ASU Coach Mike Balado had his first victory in the rivalry, 70-62, on Saturday night at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
"I feel much better," said Balado, who was previously a four-year assistant at Louisville. "You never want to lose five in a row. You want to get a win somewhere."
It was the most three-pointers the Trojans (5-15, 2-5 Sun Belt) have given up since an 81-79 loss in the season opener to Ouachita Baptist University, which made 14.
Flanigan pinned the loss on poor defense, especially on the perimeter.
"I thought we were late a lot of times, especially closing back out," said Flanigan, whose team had given up an average of 8.8 three-pointers in the previous four games. "They put you in those ball screens, and you have to help."
Junior guard Grantham Gillard was 5 of 8 in three-point shooting for ASU (7-13, 2-5) and tied a career-high with 23 points. The long shots prevented UALR from using its size advantage. The Trojans could not afford to trade two-point shots for three-pointers, and their 5-of-17 night from three-point range (29.4 percent) was not enough to keep up.
"That's the story for us," said Flanigan, whose team entered the game with the Sun Belt's lowest three-point percentage (30.8).
But three-pointers initially put the Trojans ahead. Sophomore guard Ryan Pippins made two, the last while fading away at the top of the key to complete a 7-0 run to give the Trojans an 11-5 lead with 14:24 left in the first half.
Junior guard Camron Reedus entered the game and scored eight points on three offensive possessions, and UALR led 19-6 with 11:05 left in the first half.
It appeared a rout was on entering a timeout.
"At first we were all down, looking at each other," said ASU junior guard Ty Cockfield, who finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. "But we turned to coach. He's a great leader for us. He told us to keep your heads up, there was 11 minutes to go in the first half. Just keep playing basketball and it'll fall in place."
The Red Wolves closed the half by outscoring UALR 29-9, energized by Gillard, who scored 16 points by halftime for a 35-28 lead.
ASU maintained that distance for the majority of the second half, although the Trojans started the half with a 6-0 run to pull within 35-34.
UALR missed its next five three-point attempts, and ASU made five consecutive baskets, including two three-pointers by Cockfield for a 55-48 lead.
ASU senior guard Deven Simms made a three-pointer from the top of the key to go ahead 58-50 with 7:53 left in the game. The Trojans never pulled within less than five points for the rest of the game. UALR had a 4-0 run to pull within 66-61, but Pippins missed a three-pointer from the right wing that would have made it a one-possession game.
ASU's Simms deked UALR defenders with a stop-and-go move to deliver a back-breaking layup for a 68-61 edge with 1:21 left in the game.
"Being up 13, we've got to have more poise as a team," said junior UALR forward Oliver Black, who had 10 points and seven rebounds. "I believe in these guys. I believe that, I don't know, that at any moment it's just going to turn for us. I don't know exactly when, or how it's going to happen. But I just feel it."
ASU will next play at Coastal Carolina on Thursday, when UALR will play at Appalachian State.
ABILENE CHRISTIAN 80,
CENTRAL ARKANSAS 63
Jalone Friday scored 18 points and Jaren Lewis scored 13 points with 11 rebounds and Abilene Christian (13-8, 5-3 Southland Conference) pulled away in the second half for a victory over the University of Central Arkansas (10-11, 4-4) at the Farris Center in Conway.
The Wildcats led 38-37 at halftime before turning a 63-57 advantage with less than six minutes left to 70-57 with a layup from Friday, a three-pointer from Payten Ricks and Jaylen Franklin’s dunk in a two-minute span. The Bears went scoreless for 4½ minutes and missed six shots. Ricks and Franklin sandwiched dunks between Jordan Howard’s layup for the Bears for a 17-point lead with 77 seconds left.
Franklin added 16 points for Abilene Christian and Ricks and Tevin Foster each scored 11.
Howard, who became UCA’s all-time leading scorer Saturday, scored 28 points for the Bears on 10-of-18 shooting and made 4 of the Bears’ 5 three-pointers. He has 2,158 career points at UCA, one point ahead of Clifton Bush, a UCA Sports Hall of Famer.
ARK.-PINE BLUFF 72,
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M 66
Martaveous McKnight scored a career-high 39 points with 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, carrying the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to a victory over Prairie View A&M in Prairie View, Texas.
McKnight was 13 of 20 from the floor and 10 of 11 from the free-throw line for the Golden Lions (6-14, 6-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference), who are on a six-game winning streak and are undefeated in the SWAC. Trent Steen added eight points before fouling out. Travon Harper opened the scoring with a dunk and the Golden Lions never looked back as McKnight scored 20 points to make it 31-8 with 6:45 to go in the half. Prairie View A&M went on a 14-6 run to cut the lead to 37-22 at halftime.
Gary Blackston scored 27 points with 8 rebounds and 8 assists for the Panthers (5-15, 2-4), who have lost their past four games. Troy Thompson added 15 points.
Sports on 01/21/2018
Print Headline: ASU turns to 3's to reverse decline