LITTLE ROCK - South Alabama (12-9, 9-4 SBC) handed UALR (14-10, 8-5 SBC) just its second home loss of the season on Thursday, topping the Trojans 70-66 at the Jack Stephens Center. After trailing by as many as 15, UALR used a late rally to pull within two with less than two minutes to play. But South Alabama scored the next four points to go back up six, and the Trojans got no closer than three the rest of the way.
The win snaps UALR's three-game win streak and gives South Alabama the season sweep against the Trojans, as the Jaguars took the previous meeting, 77-62, in Mobile, Ala., on Dec. 22.
Down by 13 with 6:38 left in the game, UALR went on a 9-to-3 run to pull within seven, 63-56. After South Alabama's Mychal Ammons hit one of two at the line, freshman Kemy Osse knocked down a three pointer from the top of the key to make it a five-point game with 2:34 remaining. Freshman John Gillon was able to come up with the steal on the other end, and Ben Dillard converted on an old-fashioned three point play in UALR's next trip down to cut its deficit to two, 64-62.
After South Alabama came up empty on its next possession, a three-point attempt by junior Will Neighbour that would have given UALR the lead rimmed out and was rebounded by South Alabama, who proceeded to score four-unanswered points to push its lead back out to six, 68-62, with 36 seconds remaining. The Trojans got back within three on another bucket by Dillard with 10 seconds left, but after Ammons made one of two at the line, a three-point try by Hagins was off the mark, and South Alabama held on for the 70-66 win.
Dillard led UALR with 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and Hagins scored 13 points as the only other Trojan in double figures. Neighbour grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds but was limited to just six points on 3-of-11 shooting. Sophomore Michael Javes scored five points and pulled down a season-high eight rebounds.
Augustine Rubit led USA with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Teammate Antoine Allen scored 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and Ammons scored 16 points to give the Jaguars three players in double figures.
As a team, South Alabama finished the game shooting 41.2 percent from the floor (21-of-51), while UALR was limited to just 34.4 percent shooting on the night (21-of-61).
The Trojans finished the night +6 on the glass (43-to-37), but committed 15 turnovers that led to 23 South Alabama points. UALR's reserves outscored the non-starters from USA, 22-9, and the Trojans held a 26-to-20 edge in points in the paint.
South Alabama was able to build a 10-point lead at halftime, 36-26. After playing from behind for most of the first five-plus minutes, a three pointer by junior Leroy Isler at the 14:02 mark capped a 5-0 run for the Trojans and gave UALR its final lead of the game. Two free throws by Rubit on the other end immediately regained South Alabama's lead and began a run of eight-unanswered points by the Jaguars that was part of a larger 15-to-2 run. A trey by Hagins and up-and-under finish by sophomore Taggart Lockhart made up a 5-0 run for the Trojans that got UALR within seven, 26-19, with less than five minutes to go in the half. South Alabama answered with eight-straight points to create its largest lead of the game, 34-19, but the Trojans ended the half on a 7-2 run to get the deficit down to 10 before heading into the locker room.
UALR returns to action on Thursday, Feb. 7, when they travel to ULM. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Patrick Newton: Assistant Sports Information Director