LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UALR) - In a back-and-forth contest that featured 11 ties and 13 lead changes the UALR men's basketball team, led by 15 second half points from junior DeVonte Smith, was able to hold off Texas State for a 69-64 win in the Jack Stephens Center.
With the Trojans clinging to a slim three-point lead and just over five minutes to play, Smith stepped up with a shot-clock beating trey. That shot gave UALR (10-9, 5-2 Sun Belt Conference) a six point lead, the largest for both teams at that point, and allowed his team to close out a win over Texas State (5-14, 1-5 SBC) for the second time this season.
Smith's clutch basket came in a game-deciding 9-2 run that saw the Trojans grow their lead from three to 10 in just over three minutes. The run was capped by a coast-to-coast steal and score from Smith that gave UALR its largest lead of the night.
The teams were trading punches in the first half with four ties and four lead changes. UALR led by four in the early going and the Bobcats led by as many as five in the first half. Texas State controlled the inside in the first half with an 18-4 advantage in points in the paint and an 18-12 lead on the glass. But thanks to senior Will Neighbour and junior Ben Dillard providing two 3-pointers each, UALR was able to keep it close.
UALR answered quickly in the second half and took back the lead with 16:27 to play on a layup by Smith. The home team would relinquish the late lead on two occasions, but never trailed by more than two. Two free throws from Neighbour broke a 47-47 tie right after the under-12 media timeout and the Bobcats were unable to catch the Trojans again.
Smith, who scored two points in the first half, finished the contest with 17 points with a perfect night shooting. The point guard went 6 of 6 from the floor, 2 of 2 from 3-point land and knocked down all three of his free throws. Smith also had two assists and zero turnovers and now has 5.75 assist-to-turnover ratio in league games, which leads the SBC.
Neighbour's 21 points marked the 19th consecutive time he has reached double figures in scoring and his eighth 20-point night of the season, two of which have come against Texas State. The forward also pulled down a team-leading five rebounds. Junior Gus Leeper, who didn't score in the first half, tallied a season-best 11 points going 5 of 5 from the charity stripe in the second half.
Sophomore Josh Hagins scored six and dished out three assists while blocking three shots in a winning effort. Dillard hit both of his 3-point attempts and finished with eight points and three rebounds.
Emani Gant led Texas State with 16 points and five rebounds. Reid Koenen racked up 13 on 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
Thanks to the effort of Neighbour and Leeper the Trojans were able to outscore their opponents in the paint in the second half 20-18 as well as outrebound the Bobcats 13-12. UALR was also solid at the free throw line hitting 19 of 22 in the game and 12 of 13 in the second half. With the win, UALR extends its winning streak over Texas State to four games.
The Trojans will be back on the hardwood on Saturday at 7:05 pm when they travel to Jonesboro, Ark. for their showdown with rival Arkansas State.