The Arkansas-Little Rock men's basketball team takes on in-state rival Arkansas State at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock tonight in a nonconference game between two programs looking to find consistency in the early portion of the season.
Under first year Coach Bryan Hodgson, ASU (2-5) has struggled while playing a difficult nonconference schedule. Two of its losses have been on the road to Wisconsin and Iowa of the Big Ten.
Hodgson has tired a myriad of different starting lineups so far, but has yet to settle on a consistent rotation. After the Red Wolves' most recent loss at home to a 1-6 Jackson State team Tuesday night, Hodgson called out his team's toughness publicly.
"There is no excuse. We just got punked out," Hodgson said. "We do a lot of fraudulent tough stuff. Like talk to the other team, talk to the other coach, stuff that doesn't win you basketball games."
Hodgson also said he wants to see more discipline and sacrifices made from his players while they are on the floor. Maximizing their talent has been a struggle early on, he said.
"Getting away from the fake tough guy stuff and doing the real tough guy stuff," Hodgson said. "Being the first on the floor to a loose ball. Boxing out and getting a rebound. Getting off a box out and getting a rebound. Doing actual things that it takes to win basketball games."
UALR (3-4) has had its own struggles recently as it lost four consecutive games, including back to back contests against Georgia State just before Thanksgiving.
Following the second loss to the Panthers, UALR Coach Darrell Walker called out his team for being "soft" towards the end of the game as the Trojans blew a 17-point second-half lead at home and lost in overtime.
Since then, the Trojans have responded and rattled off two consecutive wins, including a 90-64 domination of Ball State at home on Tuesday night.
With an athletic ASU team visiting tonight, Walker said he is well aware of the challenge facing UALR. He also said believes the game may come down to long distance shooting.
"They're going to shoot a lot of threes," Walker said. "They're averaging 10 made threes a game and putting up about 30 a game. They got a lot of good players on their basketball team. I think it's going to be more of a three-point shooting contest than an off-the-dribble game. But they really do a lot of off-the dribble-offense. So we're going to have to move our feet (defensively) and keep them off the foul line."
Freddy Hicks and Taryn Todd provide most of the scoring punch for the Red Wolves backcourt and are the team's leading scorers at 14.3 points and 13.6 points per game, respectively. University of Arkansas transfer Derrian Ford is another guard the Red Wolves feature who can facilitate his teammates and put the ball in the basket.
Deyondre Dominguez averages 12 points and 9.1 rebounds per game from his forward position. He is a difficult frontcourt player to defend and is an active player around the rim, but can also step out and make shots from the perimeter.
"He can shoot it, he can put it on the floor," Walker said of Dominguez's skillset. "We're going to have to pay close attention to everybody on their team because everybody on their team shoots a lot of threes. We're going to have to protect the three-point line for sure."
With starters Khalen Robinson and DeAntoni Gordon both nursing injuries that could keep them out of the lineup again tonight, UALR may have to rely on its depth as it did in the win over Ball State.
Freshmen Jaylen Crocker-Johnson and Creed Williamson played well in their starting roles in Tuesday's win, and Walker said he hopes the two young forwards can build off that performance with their extended minutes.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to play the guys that are healthy and I never make any excuses," he said. "We may have those two young freshmen out there, I call them the 'Bruise Brothers.' We may have them out there again, which I thought they played good [against Ball State]."
With each team fielding rosters heavy on transfer players, team chemistry is still a work in progress. While there is great familiarity between the programs from year's past as Sun Belt Conference rivals, many of the players are new and that should make for an intriguing contest.
"They've played a good schedule and I think we've played a pretty good schedule this year, too," Walker said. "It should be an interesting matchup. Hopefully it will be a lively crowd. ... We're going to have a white-out. Everybody is going to wear white and be ready to rock and roll. Should be a really good college environment."
Arkansas State men at Arkansas-Little Rock
WHEN 6:30 p.m.
WHERE Jack Stephens Center, Little Rock
RECORDS UALR 3-4, Arkansas State 2-5
SERIES ASU leads 57-36
RADIO KHLR-FM, 106.7, Little Rock KFIN-FM, 107.9, Jonesboro
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
POS. NAME, HT, YR PPG RPG
G Jordan Jefferson, 6-4, Jr. 6.1 3.4
G Bradley Douglas, 6-1, Jr. 8.4 2.6
G Jamir Chaplin, 6-5, Sr. 16.0 8.6
F Creed Williamson, 6-8, Fr. 3.3 2.7
F J. Crocker-Johnson, 6-8, Fr. 6.6 2.7
COACH Darrell Walker (64-90 in sixth season at UALR, 110-108 in eighth season overall)
POS. NAME, HT, YR. PPG RPG
G Freddy Hicks, 6-6, Jr. 14.3 5.6
G Taryn Todd, 6-4, Jr. 13.6 4.0
G Avery Felts, 6-2, Jr. 6.1 1.1
G Derrian Ford, 6-3, So. 6.4 3.7
F Dyondre Dominguez, 6-9, Jr. 12.0 9.1
COACH Bryan Hodgson (2-5 in first season at ASU and overall)
80.5. Points for 75.4
79.8 Points against 80.6
-4.0 Rebound margin +1.3
+1.5 Turnover margin -4.1
44.8 FG pct. 41.8
31.0 3-pt pct. 35.5
75.0 FT pct. 66.2
CHALK TALK UALR had six players score in double figures in its 90-64 win over Ball State on Tuesday night. Jamir Chaplin has scored in double figures in four straight games for the Trojans. … Tonight’s game marks the 95th time these two programs have played each other. In 57 of the previous 94 meetings, the game has been decided by 10 points or less. UALR holds a 22-15 series advantage in game played in Little Rock. … ASU has won the past three meeting, including 77-75 last season at Jonesboro. … The Trojans and Red Wolves were Sun Belt Conference rivals until UALR left for the Ohio Valley Conference last season.
— Mike Harley