Leader Blues

Friday, November 28, 2008

SPORTS>>Former Jacksonville star lifts Trojans past ’Jays

Arkansas-Little Rock sports information

UALR junior and former Jacksonville Red Devil Mike Smith got an offensive rebound and a putback with 6.4 seconds left to lift the Trojans (4-0) to a 71-69 victory over Missouri Valley Conference preseason favorite Creighton (3-1) on Tuesday night at the Jack Stephens Center.

UALR got off to a slow start and trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, but rallied behind a dominating presence on the inside. The Trojans enjoyed a plus-20 rebounding margin over the Bluejays (46-to-26), scored 44 of their 71 points in the paint, and converted 15 offensive rebounds into 24 second-chance points. In the second half alone, the Trojans outrebound Creighton 25-to-9.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys tonight, and that is 1 through 14,” said UALR head coach Steve Shields. “We were very tenacious tonight as a basketball team. We faced a lot of adversity early on. We couldn’t get the ball to fall and they were making some shots, but we stayed with it.”

Smith, who was a game-time decision to play, recorded his sond double-double of the year with a 12-point, 10-rebound performance, while sophomore Matt Mouzy went 3-for-7 from three-point range en route to a team-high 15 points.

“We certainly needed (Mike) tonight, and he stepped up big,” added Shields.

UALR’s deficit reached as high as 16 points, 34-18, after a putback by Chad Milliard with 5:05 to go, but the Trojans rallied behind the play of Courtney Jackson. The freshman from Paris, Texas went to work on the inside and scored eight of UALR’s next 14 points as the Trojans closed out the half on a 14-5 run to pull within seven at the break, 39-32.

UALR continued to whittle away at Creighton’s lead by going 8-of-12 from the field at the start of the second half. Down 53-44, Mouzy connected on back-to-back three pointers to pull the Trojans within three, 53-50, with 11:34 to play.

Trailing 64-63, Courtney Jackson hit a hook shot from in close to give the Trojans a 65-64 lead with 2:10 remaining – their first since leading 2-0 at the start of the game.

Creighton earned two trips to the line, but went just 2-of-4, to reclaim the lead 66-65 with 1:39 to go. UALR went to Smith on the next trip down the floor and he got behind his man and delivered a bucket in the paint to give UALR a 67-66 lead. After a missed jumper by Josh Dotzler, junior Steven Moore went to the line and sank a pair of clutch foul shots to make it a 69-66 contest with 47.5 seconds to go.

In addition to their strong play on the inside, the Trojans outshot Creighton 49.2 percent to 40.0 percent on the night. UALR shot 53.3 percent in the second half and held the Bluejays, who came in averaging 83 points per game, to a .370 field goal percentage in the second half.

“They are a very good basketball team with a lot of skill. They are one of the best-coached teams in the country,” said Shields.

“I have a ton of respect for Dana Altman and the job that he has done over the years at Creighton.”

UALR returns to action on today when it welcomes Loyola Marymount to the Jack Stephens Center at 7 p.m.