MEMPHIS -- Darrell Walker has said one important goal for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock men's basketball team is to hold the opponent to 65 points or fewer.
Facing the No. 16 team in a hostile environment Wednesday night, the Trojans nearly did just that for the third consecutive game as UALR sought a signature victory during Year 2 of the Walker era.
But trailing by two points with under six minutes left, UALR started to wilt, and the Trojans fell to Memphis 68-58 at the FedEx Forum in front of an announced crowd of 15,390.
"I knew we were gonna have a chance to win if the game was in the 60s, and we had our chances," Walker said. "We competed and played hard. There ain't no doubt about that. I think we showed that we're a pretty good basketball team, but we still got a ways to go."Gallery: UALR-Memphis
UALR (3-2), with added length and size this season, has shown itself to be a capable defensive team thus far. Memphis (4-1) entered the game averaging 91.3 points and shooting 51.8% from the floor.
But the Trojans' defensive intensity made life far more difficult for the Tigers. Memphis, which was without suspended freshman center James Wiseman, was held to 23 points below its season average. The Tigers shot 39% from the floor, 24% from beyond the arc and committed 19 turnovers.
"Offensively, we knew that we wanted them to run their sets," UALR sophomore point guard Markquis Nowell said. "The only way they [were] gonna be able to score was on fast-break points."
Nowell was proven right as Memphis outscored UALR 26-14 on the fast break.
What crippled UALR were turnovers and an inability to make foul shots.
The Trojans, who shot 43% from the floor, turned it over 26 times and went 13 of 24 from the free-throw line. Junior guard Jaizec Lottie was 0 for 5 by himself from the charity stripe, and 10 of the team's turnovers came from Nowell, who finished with a team-high 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists.
"We can play with anybody," said junior forward Ruot Monyyong, who posted 12 points, 9 boards, 4 blocks and 4 steals. "Just got to limit our turnovers."
Sophomore forward Kamani Johnson posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and junior guard Ben Coupet Jr. added 12 points and 7 rebounds.
Junior forward Kris Bankston and junior guard Alsean Evans once again sat with injuries. The Trojans also recently learned from the NCAA that sophomore forward Nikola Maric, who has yet to play this season, will be suspended until the Jan. 9 game at Troy.
The Trojans' defensive effort showed itself early as UALR held Memphis without any points for 5:29. The Trojans had a 9-0 lead before Memphis forward D.J. Jeffries jump-started the Tigers with a dunk, and then later, a jumper in the lane.
"I kind of got the feeling in the locker room before the game that these kids were taking Little Rock for granted," Memphis Coach Penny Hardaway said. "It wasn't the same energy. We don't have any excuses for that. Then we came out on the floor and got down 9-0."
The Trojans led 19-12 with 6:57 left before halftime, but the Tigers woke up during a media timeout.
Memphis closed the half on a 16-4 run for a 28-23 lead heading into the break, and the Tigers extended their lead to 35-25 in the opening two minutes of the second half.
UALR would not go away quietly. After a three-pointer by Nowell with 5:37 remaining, the Trojans had pulled within 55-53.
For the next 4:45, the Trojans didn't make a field goal, managed one free throw and had three turnovers as Memphis opened up a 10-point lead heading into the final minute.
UALR had run out of steam.
"Got out of control," Nowell said. "We forgot what the game plan was, and I take that on me because I'm the point guard. I was supposed to make sure everybody's good."
Jeffries finished with 15 points before fouling out with 4:15 to left in the game. The only other Tiger in double figures was freshman forward Precious Achiuwa, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
ARKANSAS STATE 80, COLORADO STATE 78
Trailing by 17 early in the second half, Arkansas State University (5-1) rallied for a victory over Colorado State (3-2) on Wednesday in Fort Collins, Colo.
A 13-2 run to open the second half saw Colorado State take a 52-35 lead with 16:22 left. Arkansas State trimmed the lead to 70-60 with 5:23 remaining, then used a 13-2 run -- capped by a floater from Jerry Johnson -- to take a 73-72 lead with 2:25 left.
The Rams regained the lead on two free throws, but Marquis Eaton hit one of two free throws and a three-pointer to give the Red Wolves a 79-76 lead with 21 seconds left. Two more Colorado State free throws cut the lead to one, but Christian Willis hit one of two free throws to set the final score.
Arkansas State finished 50% or better from the floor for the third time over the past four games, going 27 of 54, which included 13-of-20 shooting (65%) from the three-point line. Colorado State shot 49% (28 of 57) from the floor, but hit only 5 of 19 three-pointers.
Caleb Fields scored a game-high 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting -- including 3 three-pointers -- to lead the Red Wolves. Johnson also hit 3 three-pointers to add 15 points off the bench, while Eaton scored 12 of his 18 points in the final 5:45 of the game.
Sports on 11/21/2019
Print Headline: UALR stands ground