Trojans claim 8th in a row, eye title

After losing the first matchup of the season at Tennessee State on Dec. 30, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock men returned the favor with an 85-60 statement win over the Tigers on Thursday night to pick up their eighth consecutive win in front of an announced crowd of 3,367 at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.

The UALR defense was relentless, holding Tennessee State to 39.2% shooting from the field and 19% from three-point range. On the flip side, the Trojans (19-11, 13-4 Ohio Valley Conference) shot 52.6% from the field and 42.9% from behind the arc.

Jordan Jefferson scored a season-high 22 points to lead the Trojans. Bradley Douglas scored 18 points off the bench and also came up with three steal. DeAntoni Gordon finished with 14 points, while Khalen Robinson and Makhel Mitchell scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

"I just wanted to come out shooting," Jefferson said. "I've been out of rhythm for the last few games. With the [OVC] Tournament coming up, they're going to need me. I was looking for my shot more this game."

Jefferson provided the early offense, scoring the first nine points of the game as UALR jumped out to an 11-2 lead 2:12 into the game. A three-pointer from Douglas at the 11:49 mark of the first half extended the lead to 27-11.

Tennessee State (17-13, 10-7) responded with an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to 27-22 with 9:34 to go in the first half. The Tigers would get as close as 31-27, before the Trojans built their lead back to 37-27 following a jumper from Douglas with 5:20 left in the half.

UALR finished the half strong. A dunk from Gordon with two seconds left in the half pushed the Trojans lead up to 47-32. Jefferson led all scorers at the break with 13 points, while Douglas added 11 in the first 20 minutes.

Back-to-back three-pointers from Douglas and Jefferson extended UALR's lead to 61-38 and forced a Tigers timeout with 14:28 left in the contest. While the offense was clicking, UALR Coach Darrell Walker said he was especially pleased with the defensive effort of his team.

"We're really guarding people," he said. "That's why we've been on this winning streak and we have to continue to keep guarding. I thought it was a really well-played game by us on both ends of the floor besides us turning the basketball over in the first half. It was a solid defensive effort."

Facing the large deficit, Tennessee State went to full-court press which sped up the Trojans and created some turnovers. The Tigers were able to cut the gap to 69-54 with 7:41 to go, but that is as close as they would come to getting back into the game.

E.J. Bellinger scored a team-high 15 points to pace the Tigers. Kinyon Hodges finished with 12 points and Jaylen Jones added eight points off the bench.

UALR closed the game on a 16-6 run in the final 7:14, capped by a three-pointer from Cougar Downing with 34 seconds left in the game to give the Trojans the 25-point win.

With a win in its final regular-season game Saturday against Tennessee Tech, UALR will clinch at least a share of the OVC title and the No. 1 seed heading into next week's conference tournament at Evansville, Ind.

"After the UT-Martin game [a 77-72 loss on Jan. 13], I told my guys they can win 13 games in a row," Walker said. "They probably didn't believe me. I think they believe me now. They're locked in. We got a win and we got Tennessee Tech coming in [Saturday]. It was a good game the first game of the year we played down there. It went down to the wire, so they'll be ready to play"



Despite playing with a depleted roster due to injury and illness, Arkansas-Little Rock got off to a quick start and cruised to a victory over Tennessee State on Thursday night at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.

For the third consecutive game, Jordan Holman led the Trojans in scoring with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. The junior made 2 of 3 shots from three-point range and also pulled down seven rebounds. UALR (11-17, 10-7 Ohio Valley Conference) set the tone early, outscoring the Tigers 18-6 in the first quarter. Faith Lee finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds, while AnneMarie Batista provided a spark off the bench by hitting 3 three-pointers and scoring 13 points.

Tennessee State (9-18, 6-11) was led by Sanaa St. Andre, who scored a team-high 16 points. Zyion Shannon finished with eight points for the Tigers and Diamond Cannon chipped in seven points off the bench.

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