The University of Arkansas-Little Rock men's basketball team used a fast start to get out to an early lead and never looked back as it defeated Lindenwood 80-66 at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock on Thursday night.
Jamir Chaplin led the Trojans with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. DeAntoni Gordon finished with 17 points, hitting 7 of 11 shots. As a team, the Trojans were 33 of 60 (55%) from the floor.
"We got a win, that's the most important thing," UALR Coach Darrell Walker said. "Still some stuff we got to clean up, but it is what it is."
UALR (10-10, 4-3 Ohio Valley Conference) got off to a quick start, building a 12-2 lead just 3:31 into the game following a three-point basket from Jaylen Crocker-Johnson. The lead grew to 37-17 at the 4:03 mark before halftime.
The Trojans went into the halftime break holding a 41-26 lead. Chaplin had 16 points at the break as UALR shot 58.1% from the field and 50% from three-point range in the opening half.
"The jump shot felt good early in the game," Chaplin said. "I hit two three's and two mid-range's, got some offensive rebounds. It was a good game offensively. I was just picking my spots and I'm going to make the shot."
Lindenwood found more success offensively in the second half, but were never able to get the deficit single digits despite scoring 40 points in the final 20 minutes. Walker was less than enthusiastic about his team's performance in the second half.
"I thought defensively in the first half we were really good holding them to 26 points," Walker said. "In the second half, I thought we were awful defensively giving up 40 points. That's the consistency I've been talking about with my team. We got to do it for 40 minutes and we didn't do that."
One positive that Walker did highlight was the production off the bench. The Trojans outscored the Lions 27-12 in bench points, with Bradley Douglas and Makhel Mitchell accounting for all 27 points. Douglas scored 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while Mitchell finished with 11 points and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes.
"We play at such a fast pace that there is going to be a lot of shots available to everybody that's on the court," Walker said. "I thought Bradley did a great job of coming off the bench, along with the big fella [Mitchell]. I though Mekhel was good defensively and offensively. His presence down low. He's a load down there."
Lindenwood (7-13, 1-6) was led by Keenon Cole, who finished with a game-high 25 points and collected 10 rebounds for the Lions. Cole scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half. Darius Beane also scored 13 points for the Lions, while Jeremiah Talton added 12.
With less than 48 hours before the Trojans are set to square off with Southeast Missouri State on Saturday at home, Walker said he plans to quickly turn the page and move on from Thursday's win.
"This thing is far from over," Walker said when asked about the conference outlook. "If we can get a win Saturday, we'll be 5-3 in the conference and I think we'll be right in the race with a lot of games left."
"You have to protect home always," Chaplin added. "At home, we shot here every day and play here and practice, so we have to defend it."