Darrell Walker has two objectives for the weekend.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock's coach wants his big men -- 7-0 freshman center Nikola Maric and 6-10 sophomore forward Kris Bankston -- to stay out of foul trouble and for his defense not to become sluggish.
UALR (2-2) will host Howard University in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic at 3:30 p.m. today in the Jack Stephens Center just after California Baptist and the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff will open the Thanksgiving weekend tournament at 1 p.m.
Today's losing teams will play at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center, while the winners will meet at 3:30 p.m. in the tournament's championship game.
"We need our bigs to stay out of foul trouble," Walker said. "I'm looking for a 40-minute defensive effort instead of a 20-minute defensive effort. But overall, as far as our major progress, as a coach, I can see that. I'm happy about that. We've got two games at home. We need to take care of home."
Maric did not play more than 15 minutes in either of UALR's losses at Nevada and Tulsa. Maric and Bankston, who played 9 minutes in an 87-59 loss at Nevada and 23 minutes in the 88-78 loss at Tulsa, each fouled out in both games.
Maric has played 59 total minutes in 4 games, more than 40 fewer minutes than any other starter.
UALR committed 39 total fouls against Tulsa, three shy of the most in the program history (42 against Lamar on Jan. 14, 1995).
"It's a process," Walker said. "I hate to keep saying it, but it is. We're a young team. But one thing about our team, I think we do have some talent on our basketball team."
The Trojans held a 42-37 halftime lead against Tulsa on Monday, but a weakened defense allowed 51 points in the second half.
The Trojans' first-half defense was good. The second half was not, Walker said, and opponents are scoring far too much against UALR.
"Defensively, I do like what we're doing, but it's early though," Walker said. "We're giving up too many points, giving up 83.5 and averaging 80.2 points. I know those numbers won't settle down until about 12-13 games, and I'm just looking forward to us being better defensively."
UALR's 80.2 points per game is nearly a 17-point jump from last season's average of 63.7.
The Trojans' 48.9 shooting percentage through four games is the fourth-highest figure among Sun Belt Conference teams and is 45th in the nation.
The process of rebuilding is in motion, according to Walker.
"I can tell it's underway," Walker said.
Sports on 11/23/2018
Print Headline: Walker: Need less fouls, better defense