Louisiana (10-10, 4-2 Sun Belt) limited UALR (8-12, 5-1 Sun Belt) to 25.4 percent shooting (17-of-67) for the entire contest – below 30 percent each half – and never saw the lead drop lower than 12 points in the second half.
The Cajuns shot above 50 percent the entire opening stanza, finishing at 55.6 percent (15-of-27). The defense limited the Trojans to 25 percent (8-of-32) which helped offset 11 turnovers and led to a 38-22 halftime advantage.
When the Trojans cut the lead to 59-47 following a four-point possession with 3:27 remaining, the Cajuns turned to preseason All-Sun Belt selection J.J. Thomas seal the victory which moved the squad within one game of the top spot in the SBC West division.
Thomas muscled his way into the lane and hit a hook shot at 3:10 to extend the lead to 61-47. Following a D’Andre Williams miss, Louisiana swung the ball around to Thomas on the right wing where he buried a triple at 2:31 that made it 64-47 and put the Trojans away.
Alan-Michael Thompson led UL with 14 points which all came in the first half helping the Cajuns build a huge advantage. Thomas registered 12 points, seven coming in the game’s final 3:32.
The Cajuns victory brought an end to UALR’s school-best 5-0 start to Sun Belt play. It also gives the squad the opportunity to pull off a sweep of the Arkansas road swing heading into Saturday’s contest at Arkansas State. UL and ASU will tip at 7:05 p.m., in the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
The 19 point margin of victory was Louisiana’s largest in Little Rock over UALR since an 88-62 victory on Feb. 10, 2000. It also brought an end to a string of five consecutive wins by the home team in the series.
Louisiana ended the night shooting 47.1 percent (24-of-51) keeping alive a streak in which all wins have come when finishing above 40 percent. The Trojans were held to their lowest field goal percentage since the season opener at Tulsa back on Nov. 11.
UL opened play 4-of-5 from the field and clung to a 9-7 lead at the first media timeout. A Bryant Mbamalu leaner on the baseline at 16:25 evened the score at 7-all, then Josh Brown followed up a missed three-point attempt by the Trojans with a jumper from the free throw line at 15:38.
The Cajuns defense held the Trojans without a field goal make through the 10:22 mark and added four more field goal makes to extend the advantage to 17-9.
Ahead 17-11, Thompson ignited a 7-0 Cajuns run that brought the lead into double figures for the first time when he drained a triple at the 9:11 mark.
After a Darshawn McClellan steal on the opposite end, Thompson scored a layup at 8:53 to increase the lead to 22-11. UL’s defense led to another basket at 8:28 as Brown converted a give-and-go with Elfrid Payton following a Kadeem Coleby block for a 24-11 edge.
The Cajuns hit a field goal lull following Brown’s basket, going without one until a Scottie Farrington make at 4:06. The Trojans were able to close within 10 points twice doing so last on an Eric Lawton bucket with 3:51 left in the opening half that cut the UL lead to 28-18.
Three-point baskets on back-to-back possessions – one by Thompson and one from McClellan – extended the lead to 34-18 by the 2:44 mark and prompted a UALR timeout.
UL’s lead continued to grow on its next touch as Thompson connected for a trey at 1:37 and made a free throw to complete a four-point play that opened a 38-20 advantage.
Both teams started slow in the second half with the only two points registered by the first media timeout coming on a Williams layup at 18:53. Despite missing their first six attempts of the half, the Cajuns maintained their comfortable lead as the Trojans opened 1-of-8.
Louisiana came out of the timeout with field goal makes on the first two touches to return the lead to its largest at 18 points, 42-24, by the 15 minute mark.
Neither team could find a momentum swing over the next seven minutes trading scoring possessions and the Cajuns lead remained where it was at the half, 16 points. Thomas rebounded the second of two free throw misses by Payton at 8:27 and scored a layup for a 52-36 lead.
Ben Dillard knocked down a three-pointer for the Trojans with 8:14 remaining and the hosts dropped the deficit to 13 points at 52-39, the closest since the first half. UL answered as Mbamalu converted a three-point play at 8:03 to extend the margin back to 16 points.