SUN BELT MEN
ILLINOIS STATE 75, UALR 70
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock fell short against Illinois State, 75-70, on Sunday afternoon at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill., as the Trojans' late second-half comeback attempt ultimately ran out of steam.
Trailing 62-52 with under seven minutes remaining, UALR (1-1) went on a 14-2 run to take a 66-64 lead with 3 1/2 minutes to play.
But Illinois State senior guard Zach Copeland quickly knocked down a three-pointer on the other end to retake the lead, which the Redbirds held for the remainder of the game. UALR struggled to create offense and get stops defensively in the final three minutes when the Trojans went 1 for 5 from the floor with a turnover.
"We had our chances tonight, but they are a good, veteran team that made plays on their home court," UALR Coach Darrell Walker said.
For the second consecutive game, sophomore point guard Markquis Nowell never came off the floor, and he turned in one of the best performances of his career. Nowell finished with a game-high 28 points, bolstered by a 4-for-10 effort from the three-point line, and had 4 assists.
Junior guard Ben Coupet Jr., junior forward Kris Bankston and junior forward Ruot Monyyong each added 10 points, and Coupet tallied a game-high 7 rebounds.
Copeland led Illinois State with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
UALR outshot Illinois State 51 to 47 percent, but the Redbirds (2-0) were more efficient from the three-point line, hitting 10 of 24 from long range. Each team turned the ball over 16 times, each logged 24 points in the paint and Illinois State held a slight rebounding advantage, 29-28.
The Trojans were dominant in the opening minutes of the first half and got nearly anything they wanted inside. Freshman guard Isaiah Palermo hit a jumper, Monyyong threw down a dunk, Bankston scored in the paint three consecutive times and sophomore forward Kamani Johnson hit a short jumper as UALR raced to a 12-3 lead with 15:16 remaining.
But Illinois State got back into the game thanks to a change on the defensive end.
The Redbirds switched from a man-to-man to a zone for the rest of the half, and for large stretches of the second half. The shift disrupted UALR's offense, which managed just 14 points over the final 15 minutes of the first half.
Illinois State went on a 9-3 run thanks to 3 three-pointers to cut the deficit to 15-12, then the Redbirds grabbed their first lead since their opening bucket at 26-24 with 3:09 left in the half. Illinois State used a 18-9 run over the last 12 minutes to take a 30-26 halftime lead.
After some back and forth early in the second half, UALR held a 50-49 lead with 11:29 remaining after a pair of free throws from Johnson. But the Redbirds took control of the game with a 13-2 run over the next 4:38 -- a stretch that saw Walker receive a technical foul for arguing with the officials -- to open up a 10-point lead, their largest of the day.
That's when Nowell helped UALR get back into it with 10 points on the Trojans' ensuing 14-2 run. A pair of free throws from Nowell gave UALR a 66-64 lead with 3:38 left to play, before Illinois State responded late to secure the victory.
After two road games against Missouri Valley Conference teams to start the season, UALR will host Southwest Baptist (1-1) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Jack Stephens Center for its home opener.
"I'm proud of my guys for playing a pair of Missouri Valley Conference schools tough on the road," Walker said. "We'll learn from this one and get ready for our home opener on Thursday."
Sports on 11/11/2019
Print Headline: Trojans come up short late in Illinois