Jags Use Strong Defense In Final Minutes To Defeat UALR 57-55; Advance In SBC Tournament

March 13, 2015 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's, Sun Belt Conference 

Jags_bballThe South Alabama Men’s Basketball team used strong defense late in the game to hold off a hard charging Arkansas-Little Rock team in the final minutes of the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament to win 57-55.

The #6 seeded Jags held UALR without a field goal for the final 3:49, then used key stops to hold on for the win.

USA led UALR by as many as 18 points midway through the second half, but saw that lead shrink down to just one point with 28.4 seconds left. But the Jags held strong by forcing a turnover and two missed shots including a desperation shot at the buzzer.

Senior Dionte Ferguson earned his fifth double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds to go with four blocks, including a huge one in the final moments to help preserve the win.

UALR’s Josh Hagins went to the free throw line with 28.4 seconds left and a chance to tie the game, but could only convert one. On the subsequent possession, due to the flagrant foul, USA forced a turnover. Barrington Stevens III also went 1-of-2 from the free throw line but made the Jags lead two points.

Ferguson blocked a shot attempt with four seconds left, then after a timeout following a missed USA field goal, they missed a deperate attempt by Hagins at the buzzer.

Stevens chipped in 14 points in the game. Ken Williams had 12 points all in the second half, with Abdul Lewis and Taishaun Johnson both added eight points each while Lewis added 11 rebounds.

“I’m extremely proud of my team,” head coach Matthew Graves said. “The preparation was really good. I thought we got off to a tremendous start in the first half. We did unbelievable job shrinking the floor; held them to under 30 percent in the first half, and that’s what you have to do. If you want to win at tournament time, you have to really lock in and defend.

“In the second half, I thought we got really tentative around the 12-minute mark. You can say fatigue, all kinds of excuses, but the bottom line is we got tight, missed some shots and turned the ball over a few times. UALR is a very good team. They’re very explosive. They’re capable of making 3s and then they started putting the ball on the floor and getting into the paint and that really bothered us. We were trying to juggle some foul trouble, but the two possessions there late where we dug in defensively and got stops, those were two of the best possessions we’ve had all year long.”

“I’m really proud of this group of guys,” Graves continued. “They hung tough; they battled and it was one of the few times I could say that we got it done on the defensive end of the floor. Usually we score a bunch of points and they’re able to stretch things out, or we score to make a play to win the game, but tonight I can honestly say those couple possessions late defensively, I’m most proud of those two.”

The Jags will face #3 seed Louisiana-Monroe on Friday at 7:30pm. Game coverage will be on 710 AM WNTM in the Mobile area and iHeartRadio. TV coverage will be on ESPN3.com.

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