A long line of cars on University Avenue was proof of the interest in the game between Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas Little Rock.
Coming from a celebration of life, it took some shrewd driving to arrive at the Jack Stephens Center by the 2 p.m. tip.
It took a little longer to shake the emotions of a moving ceremony dedicated to the life of Brent Haughaboo, who got his wings last week at 44.
While the world mourns Kobe Bryant's death, people filled a church to show warm regards for a man who was just as respected and liked in his own world. He also left behind a grieving family, including three great children.
All the Haughaboo kids are athletes like their dad. If it had been up to him, the service would have been in a gym, where he spent countless hours watching his kids play or practice. And there would have been games that counted.
Back at the Stephens Center, the crowd was treated to a great game.
With 1:29 to play, the Trojans led 84-80.
After a UALR turnover with 1:07 to play, Jonesboro graduate Marquis Eaton buried a three-pointer with 54 seconds to play to pull the visitors to within one, but Nikola Maric responded with a short jumper for the Trojans.
Caleb Fields made a pair of free throws to make it 86-85 with 23 seconds to play, and the Red Wolves immediately fouled Jaizec Lottie, who was cold after logging only 12 minutes to that point.
Lottie made both free throws, and UALR's Markquis Nowell made a gutsy move as the Trojans protected a three-point lead. He fouled Eaton, who finished the game as the leading scorer, with six seconds left.
After a review to make sure it was a common foul and not a shooting one, Eaton made both free throws. The Trojans then made the smart play by inbounding the ball to Nowell.
Nowell struggled from the field most of the game, and all five of his field goals came in the second half. But in the first half, he was 9 of 9 on free throws.
Nowell, the team's leading scorer, was the smallest in stature on the floor at 5-7, but he has a giant heart. The Red Wolves had to foul him with 4.8 seconds to play, and he made both of them like it was a midweek practice.
ASU got the ball to Eaton, who raced up court and tried to lean into Maric while firing a flat three. Maric leaned back to avoid contact, and the buzzer signaled a 90-87 victory for the Trojans.
It was UALR's 13th win in the past 15 games. The Trojans lead the Sun Belt with a 12-2 record.
Coach Darrell Walker, who paid his dues to get the UALR job, and his team were picked to finish 11th in the Sun Belt during preseason.
The first time Walker -- who has made Little Rock his home since 1983 -- was interested in the UALR job, he was told he needed a college degree despite years of coaching in the NBA as a head coach and assistant.
Walker went back to school and earned his degree.
The next time the job came open, he was told he needed college coaching experience.
Off to Georgia he went to coach Division II Clark Atlanta University to a 45-18 record in two seasons.
The third time the job came open, Walker was hired by then-chancellor Andrew Rogerson over the then-athletic director's objections.
Walker went 10-21 last season. With George Lee now the athletic director at UALR, Walker has blended a team together and a big crowd got to see him work. He needed all of his knowledge to get by Coach Mike Balado and the determined Red Wolves.
It was a day that started solemn but shifted into the healing process after a celebration of life.
Sports on 02/09/2020