Cold shooting dooms Jags at UALR


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The University of South Alabama men's basketball team shot 35.3 percent from the floor in a 73-56 loss to Little Rock Saturday night at the Jack Stephens Center.

The Trojans snap a two-game skid and go to 12-7 and 4-2 on the year, while the Jaguars fall to 9-10 and 2-4.

"Obviously I'm disappointed to start off the road trip with a double-digit loss," USA head coach Matthew Graves said. "Certainly we have some things to address, especially on the on the offensive end. I felt like in the first half, defensively we gave ourselves a chance to stay in the game, but unfortunately, offensively we missed a couple of layups and some free throws, and had some good looks from '3' that just didn't go down. We never got into any kind of rhythm offensively, and as the second half continued, we allowed our inability to score on offense affect our defense, which normally happens and we have to keep fighting through.

"We're going to have to make some changes on Monday and hopefully that will snap some guys out of their funk."

The Trojans scored the final five points of the first half and eight of the first 10 in the second to open up a 41-24 lead. Marcus Johnson Jr. hit two free throws with 13 seconds left, then opened the second period with a jumper and a layup.

Following a bucket from USA junior Shaq Calhoun (Rome, Ga.), Maurius Hill and Johnson went 4 for 4 at the free-throw line for a 41-24 Trojan lead.

Later in the half, while holding a 13-point lead, Little Rock went on a 13-1 run, taking advantage of a near seven-minute field-goal drought by South Alabama. Jalen Jackson accounted for seven of those points as the Trojans went 4 for 5 from the floor and 4 for 4 from the foul line.

The Jags missed all five of its attempts from the floor with three turnovers during the 6:55 stretch, allowing Little Rock to go up 25.

"I think you have to give Little Rock a lot of credit - they were very active defensively and flew around to the ball," Graves noted. "They put you in a lot of tough situations with ball-screens and their length and athleticism, and it really bothered us. They closed down a lot quicker on the wings and it forced us to rush some shots that normally our shooters make. We have to be able to play through that."

Johnson led all scorers with 22 points on three 3-pointers, and added three steals. Jackson came off the bench to record 16 and a game-high eight rebounds.

"I thought Johnson was really good tonight and he showed why he was voted preseason all-league," Graves stated. "He played with really good tempo, took some good shots, and played with a lot of passion and energy. He really got those guys going offensively."

For the Jaguars, seniors Don MuepoKelly (Fontana, Calif.) and Ken Williams (Houston, Texas) had 10 points, and junior Dederick Lee (Clarksville, Ark.) had eight points - all in the second half - on 3-for-4 shooting. He also had a team-best four assists and two steals.

"Dederick had a lot of friends and family here and I thought he played well," Graves said. "He gave us some really solid minutes out there. Unfortunately we couldn't put enough possessions together where we could score 8 or 10 straight points. It's hard to get back in the game when you can't capitalize on their mistakes because we did force them into 20 turnovers."

Up next for South Alabama is a trip Monday night to Arkansas State. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m.

NOTES: The Jaguars, who were on their best 3-point shooting run since 2006-07, went 4 for 15 (26.7%) on the night, and didn't convert from distance until the 4:52 mark of the second half, starting 0 for 10... Lee has 11 assists and just four turnovers in his last two games... Freshman Josh Ajayi (El Monte, Calif.) had his four-game double-digit point streak snapped with nine on 3-of-9 shooting; he did share team-high honors with five rebounds... Williams recorded the 300th free throw in his career, and moved into seventh place all-time at USA with 303... The Jaguars have allowed 10 of their last 11 Division I opponents to shoot 50 percent or better in the second half after the Trojans went 13 for 25 (52.0%) after intermission... After going seven straight games in single digits, MuepoKelly has hit double figures in each of his last two outings, averaging 11.0 points while shooting 7 for 11 (63.6%) from the floor over that stretch... The Jags scored 22 points in the first half, one game after setting a new season high with 43 before the break vs. Texas-Arlington... South Alabama fell to 1-7 when trailing at halftime and 2-8 when posting a negative assist/turnover ratio.