Deondre Burns said it has taken awhile to find his basketball groove after sitting out last season as a redshirt at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
"It's different," said Burns, a junior from Yazoo City, Miss. "I've got to find my role on the team."
Burns went a long way toward clarifying his usage Friday afternoon during UALR's 97-76 victory over Howard at the Jack Stephens Center.
Burns scored a career-high 29 points on 9 of 10 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in a performance that reinforced several things Coach Darrell Walker already knew.
"He's a scorer," Walker said of Burns, who scored 21 of his points in the second half to help the Trojans (3-2) stay comfortably in front after building a 51-30 halftime lead. "That's why I want him to come off the bench. He's my sixth man. He can score."
Walker said his coaching staff reminded him that Burns' 14-point performance was one positive development that came out of Monday's 88-78 loss to Tulsa.
"They said, 'Coach, he got to see the ball go in, ' " Walker said. "Hopefully it will carry over, and it did."
And then some.
Burns, a 6-2 guard, was 4 for 4 in 14 first-half minutes as the Trojans opened up a 21-point lead over Howard (4-2).
All of Burns' first-half baskets were midrange jumpers, and his confidence grew in the second half after entering with 14:45 to play and the Trojans leading 65-46.
He hit his first three-pointer 15 seconds after entering, another at the 8:45 mark, then dropped one in from the left corner just as the shot clock hit zero to give the Trojans their largest lead, 86-62, with 7:22 to play.
"After my third three, I thought, the basket is looking kind of big right now," Burns said.
Walker said he doesn't expect Burns to score 30 every night, but he said Burns is capable of putting in 10 to 15 in a hurry in a sixth-man role.
"When he scores, I'll keep him out there," Walker said, "and when he doesn't, he'll sit next to me."
Burns nodded his head when told of Walker's requirements for playing time, but added another caveat.
"As long as I play defense," he said.
That might go for any of the Trojans after a night of shooting that will be difficult to duplicate when they meet the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon at the Stephens Center.
The Trojans hit 31 of 53 from the field, including 9 of 18 on three-pointers, and 26 of 31 from the free-throw line.
"It would be absolutely outstanding if we did that every game," Walker said. "But that's not going to happen."
One aspect the Trojans can duplicate nightly, or improve upon, is a defense that held a 91-point-per-game Howard offense to 30 in the first half before letting up a bit in the second half. The 46 points the Trojans allowed in the second half bothered Walker.
"That's not good. That has to be addressed," he said.
Walker, a defensive specialist as a player with the University of Arkansas and in the NBA, thought the defense was better than it was in the first two games of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic during losses to Nevada and Tulsa.
Overall, Walker said he liked what he saw.
He pointed to the calm, efficient play of UALR's Ryan Pippins, who scored all 16 of his points in the first half but got the Trojans in their offense when Howard tried to slow the Trojans with various zone defenses.
"I feel good when Pippins is in the basketball game," Walker said.
UALR also got significant contributions from Rayjon Tucker (18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists), Markquis Nowell (11 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists) and 6-11 freshman center Nikola Maric (17 points, 2 blocks) in 21 minutes.
"We're playing a good brand of basketball," Walker said. "We've got some guys who can run up and down the court.
"We'll get some butts in the stands. It's not going to happen overnight. It's a process."
Sports on 11/24/2018
Print Headline: UALR's Burns blazes path to court time