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Glut of 3-pointers put away Trojans

by Mitchell Gladstone | December 22, 2021 at 2:30 a.m.
FILE — The Jack Stephens Center is shown in this undated file photo. (Photo courtesy UALR Athletics)


Demaree King stepped into yet another three-pointer from the left wing late in the second half.

The Jacksonville State junior held his right hand high above his head as the ball floated toward the rim, stretching as much of his 6-0, 180-pound frame as he could. No sooner than the ball dropped through the bottom of the net did the Gamecocks bench erupt.

King made five of his nine three-pointers over the final seven minutes Tuesday afternoon, helping Jacksonville State pull away from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for an 87-67 win at the Jack Stephens Center with a career-high 32 points. The Gamecocks finished 14 of 27 (51.9%) on three-point attempts.

The Trojans got a career-best 25 points from Marko Lukic but struggled to generate any offensive rhythm as Nikola Maric shuffled in and out of the lineup while dealing with foul trouble.

"It's just a matter of us not being a smart basketball team right now," UALR Coach Darrell Walker said. "I thought we played pretty solid in the first half. The second half, I thought we made a lot of dumb defensive mistakes. We left guys open for wide-open shots. ... They got 13 offensive rebounds, so therein lies the game right there."

Maric, returning after missing the previous five games with a hamstring injury, knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key on the very first possession, but it was Lukic who really drove the Trojans' offense early.

He scored nine straight points in less than three minutes, and in matching his previous career-high of 23 by halftime, Lukic helped UALR (5-7) take a 43-42 lead into halftime despite trailing by as many as eight.

His offensive impact proved vital when Maric picked up a second foul before the first media timeout.

Although the Gamecocks had plenty of size to challenge the Trojans down low -- former North Carolina center Brandon Huffman and Maros Zeliznak weigh in at 280 and 250 pounds, respectively -- Maric said a tight whistle didn't make things any easier while trying to contend with Jacksonville State (6-6).

The Bosnian junior still managed 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in just 20 minutes, fouling out with a little more than 10 minutes to play.

All that came after a week in which the Trojans really weren't able to practice because they didn't have enough healthy bodies, preventing Maric from getting into game shape following a four-week absence.

"I was kind of nervous at the beginning because I know I didn't really get ready for this game," Maric said. "I've got to get in shape. ... Sometimes in a game, people get tired and there's fatigue and they forget what they're supposed to do. That's when we give up easy points and that's how we lose."

Lukic scored down low just 12 seconds into the second half, setting his career-high, but there were few bright spots beyond that. The Gamecocks grabbed the game with a 9-0 spurt and UALR never got closer than five after that.

As a team, Jacksonville State shot 15 of 22 from the field in the second half, hitting on 8 of their 11 three-point tries, while the Trojans went 9 of 28 during the same stretch.

Walker said he knows his team is still shorthanded, even with Maric back in the fold. UALR had five guys play at least 26 minutes, and it was clear the Trojans were exhausted as they got up from their bench to shake hands after the final horn.

Whether or not UALR can get a few more bodies back in time for its Sun Belt Conference opener next week, Walker said he needs the players he does have to give him a lot more.

"It's not all physical on the court," he said. "You have to be able to think the game and make good decisions. And we haven't been doing that lately, offensively or defensively."

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Jacksonville State;M;FG;FT;O-R;PF;A;PTS

Henry;27;3-4;5-6;3-8;0;0;13

Huffman;15;3-4;3-4;2-4;4;0;9

Finch;32;2-6;0-0;0-8;3;10;4

Gibbs;19;1-5;2-4;0-1;2;1;5

Adams;32;3-11;4-4;2-5;2;5;12

King;29;11-14;1-2;1-1;2;1;32

Perdue;24;3-4;0-0;2-4;1;1;6

Zeliznak;10;2-2;2-4;1-3;2;0;6

Byrd;4;0-1;0-0;1-1;0;0;0

Brigham Jr.;4;0-1;0-0;0-0;0;0;0

Henderson;2;0-0;0-2;0-1;0;0;0

Touze;2;0-0;0-0;0-0;0;0;0

Team;;;;1-2;;;

Totals;200;28-52;17-26;13-38;16;18;87

PCT — FG 53.8, FT 65.4. 3-PT — 14-27, 51.9 (King 9-11, Henry 2-3, Adams 2-6, Gibbs 1-4, Byrd o-1, Finch 0-2). BL — 4 (Huffman 3). TO — 13 (Adams 3). ST — 5 (Finch 3).

UALR;M;FG;FT;O-R;PF;A;PTS

Maric;20;6-9;2-3;0-4;5;3;15

Palermo;29;2-6;0-0;2-5;2;4;4

Lukic;37;8-17;5-6;1-3;2;0;25

Andric;8;0-2;0-0;0-0;0;1;0

Smith;28;2-5;3-3;1-2;1;1;7

Besovic;11;0-3;0-0;2-3;4;1;0

Osawe;26;0-5;2-2;0-4;1;0;2

Stulic;32;3-5;1-2;2-3;2;1;9

Jefferson;6;2-2;0-0;0-0;1;0;5

Curtis II;3;0-1;0-0;0-0;1;0;0

Team;;;;2-3;;;

Totals;200;23-55;13-16;10-27;19;15;67

PCT — FG 41.8, FT 81.3. 3-PT — 8-21, 38.1 (Lukic 4-9, Stulic 2-4, Maric 1-1, Jefferson 1-1, Curtis 0-1, Smith 0-2, Osawe 0-3). BL — 2 (Maric, Stulic). TO — 12 (Palermo 4). ST — 3 (Andric, Smith, Jefferson).

Halftime — UALR 43, Jacksonville State 42

Officials — Felder, Jacobson, Tate

Attendance — 977

 


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