Sitting on a bus bound for home after a two-game road trip to Louisiana, University of Arkansas at Little Rock men's basketball Coach Darrell Walker was able to reflect on the Trojans' opening week of Sun Belt Conference play.
There was a word Walker kept repeating during.
"They're coming," Walker said. "And they're coming in bunches. They're coming at the wrong time. What people don't understand is offensive fouls are turnovers. Traveling is a turnover. Eight-five percent of our turnovers -- and I'm going to be honest with you -- are unforced. We've got to correct it before Thursday. We have to."
The Trojans (5-10, 0-2 Sun Belt) committed 18 turnovers in a 97-84 loss Thursday at Louisiana-Monroe and 23 more in a 75-61 loss Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette.
Including a season-high 24 in an overtime loss at Georgetown on Dec. 22, UALR is averaging 21.7 turnovers in its past three games -- well above its season average of 16.8 turnovers per game.
The Trojans, who have lost four consecutive games, have turned the ball over 252 times this season, the most among all 12 Sun Belt teams.
Lately, because UALR's turnovers have swelled to an extreme since conference play began Thursday, turnovers -- and more specifically points off turnovers -- have become the first thing Walker examines when looking at each post-game box score.
Walker explained how Louisiana-Lafayette accounted for 31 of its 35 points in Saturday's first half. The Ragin' Cajuns scored 18 points off UALR's 15 first-half turnovers and added 13 more via second-chance points. The total was 31 preventable points.
The Trojans turned the ball over on 40.5 percent of 37 total offensive possessions in Saturday's first half.
"That's what been killing us," Walker said. "Turning the ball over."
True freshman center Nikola Maric and true freshman point guard Markquis Nowell are doing much of UALR's turnover damage at 3.7 and 3.5 turnovers per game. Redshirt junior Rayjon Tucker, the Sun Belt's leading scorer at 21.6 points per game, is third with an average of 2.9 turnovers.
"Markquis has been turning the ball over a little too much right now with his decision making," Walker said. "We've talked about that. He has to get better at that. I expected to have some of that out of him as a freshman point guard."
There is no specific fix for the turnovers.
"It's just frustrating, man," Walker said. "You can talk about it. You can run guys in practice for turnovers. But when you get in a game, you can't run nobody. We've just got to keep harping on it."
Walker is hopeful starting sophomore guard Jaizec Lottie (broken finger) will be able to return from the injury for Thursday's 6:30 p.m. conference home opener against Troy (8-6, 1-1) at the Jack Stephens Center.
Junior reserve guard Ryan Pippin also suffered a high ankle sprain in Saturday's loss. Walker said he was unsure if he will be available Thursday.
UALR's first Sun Belt homestand will continue at 3 p.m. Saturday against South Alabama (9-6, 2-0).
"Like I told my guys, if we can win two games at home, we'll be 2-2 and right in the thick of the race," Walker said.
Sports on 01/07/2019
Print Headline: Walker scratching head over rash of turnovers