The Sun Belt Conference men's basketball season began less than 10 days ago, but UALR Coach Darrell Walker already is thinking about the standings.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will open a two-game home stand at 6:30 p.m. today against Troy. It is the Trojans first game in the Jack Stephens Center since Dec. 11.
"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. "It's true."
The Trojans (5-10, 0-2 Sun Belt) are riding a four-game losing streak into the league home opener, including two tough road losses at Memphis (99-89) and Georgetown (102-94, OT) in December, and a pair of double-digit defeats against Sun Belt foes in Louisiana.
With starting guard Jaizec Lottie sidelined because of a broken finger, Louisiana-Monroe toppled UALR 97-84 to open conference play last Thursday. Louisiana-Lafayette polished off a 14-point victory against the Trojans on Saturday.
Lottie has missed three games with the finger injury. Walker said he's hopeful the sophomore can play "18-20 minutes" tonight.
"That'd be a big boost for us," Walker said. "He's doing OK. He's doing fine."
Reserve junior guard Ryan Pippins' status is also unknown after he suffered a high ankle sprain in Saturday's loss at Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Trojans' backcourt has been victimized by a slew of injuries. All five of UALR's primary guards -- Lottie, Pippins, leading scorer and junior Rayjon Tucker, freshman Markquis Nowell and junior Deondre Burns -- were sidelined with injuries during UALR's 5-8 nonconference schedule.
UALR leads all Sun Belt teams with 252 total turnovers this season, including a league-worst turnover margin of -2.6 per game.
"It's the backcourt," Walker said. "It's the guys that are handling the ball that really need to be healthy. When we're healthy, I think we're a really solid team. We haven't been able to push the ball up the floor like we really want to. When I had those guards, I was able to put three guards out there."
UALR, when healthy, is able to increase its offensive tempo with at least three guards on the floor at the same time.
The Trojans have not been able to deploy their uptempo lineup lately, which also pushes the 6-5, 210-pound Tucker to power forward and keeps one true big on the floor, Walker said.
The UALR women's toughest Sun Belt stretch may be over the next three days.
Tonight, UALR will begin a two-game Alabama road trip at 6 p.m. at Troy (11-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) -- which is on a five-game winning streak -- and then will move on to meet South Alabama (12-1, 1-1) on Saturday.
Troy and South Alabama hold the Sun Belt's top two overall records and are the league's only teams with double-digit victories thus far.
Troy leads all Sun Belt teams with 82.3 points per game, and South Alabama ranks third at 74.7 ppg. UALR is 12th among 12 teams with 56.5 points. South Alabama and Troy also rank first and second in three-pointers made per game at 8.2 and 7.7, respectively.
"We're excited about this tough stretch," senior forward Ronjanae DeGray, who is second on the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game, said. "These two teams are really good. They're going to challenge us. We're going to challenge them."
Arkansas State University announced Wednesday it has added 6-8 Wake Forest transfer forward Melo Eggleston.
Eggleston will join the Red Wolves for the rest of the 2018-19 season, but will not be available to play until December.
"We love his length and size, and he is a very skilled player that can play multiple positions," ASU Coach Mike Balado said in a news release. "He is a great kid who fits our culture, and we look forward to having him practice throughout the rest of this season and having him eligible in December."
The native of Suitland, Md., appeared in 21 games as a freshman in 2017-18 for Wake Forest, averaging 1 point and 1.1 rebounds in 5 minutes per game. He will play as a sophomore next year, then have two full seasons of eligibility after that.
Sports on 01/10/2019
Print Headline: Walker focuses on going 2-2