Arkansas-Little Rock (15-16) vs. Arkansas State (18-12)
GAME NOTES: The quarterfinal round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament begins on Friday with a matchup pitting the fifth-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans against the fourth-seeded Arkansas State Red Wolves at New Orleans Lakefront Arena.
The winner of this quarterfinal-round contest will move on to the semifinals of the Sun Belt Tournament to face the top-seeded Georgia State Panthers Saturday.
UALR took care of Troy in Thursday's opening round of the Sun Belt Tournament, 74-61, to advance. The Trojans have won three of their last four games, including a March 1 victory over their next opponent, Arkansas State.
Arkansas State had a solid year in the Sun Belt Conference, finishing the season with a 10-8 record in the league. The Red Wolves stumbled a bit into the postseason though, after losing three of their last four games, including a tough 77-76 defeat at the hands of Louisiana Saturday in the team's season finale.
Arkansas State leads the all-time series with UALR, 48-30. The two teams split the regular-season series, with each program winning on their respective home floor.
UALR and Troy were knotted at 33 points apiece headed into the intermission of Thursday's game. But the Trojans came out in the second half and connected on 58.6 percent of their field goal tries to take the lead. Josh Hagins topped the UALR squad in scoring in the game, netting 15 points with eight rebounds and six assists. James White contributed 14 points and six boards, and DeVonteSmith and Ben Dillard each chipped in 11 points, with Smith topping eight assists. Will Neighbour, the team's leading scorer, dislocated his left shoulder in the game Thursday and is out indefinitely. Now Hagins (12.3 ppg) and White (11.3 ppg) take over as the go-to players for the Trojans. UALR averages 70.1 ppg on the season, and gives up 72.7 ppg to opponents. White also takes over as the team's leading rebounder in Neighbour's absence with 6 rpg.
Louisiana's Elfrid Payton connected on a 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds remaining on Saturday that proved to be the game-winning shot for the Ragin' Cajuns over Arkansas State. The Red Wolves, who were led by 28 points from Melvin Johnson III in the contest, will try to rebound almost a week later to make a push for the tournament title. Johnson enters the Sun Belt Tournament with a 15.2 ppg average, which leads the Red Wolves on the season. He's followed by Kirk Van Slyke at 14.9 ppg. Ed Townsel was the only other player against Louisiana to net a double-digit point total, chipping in 23 points in the loss. On the season, Kendrick Washington adds 10 ppg for Arkansas State, also pulling down a team-leading 6.3 rpg average. The Red Wolves enter the tournament netting 75.7 ppg.
The injury to Neighbour is a huge loss for UALR, especially in the scoring department. The Trojans were able to defeat the Red Wolves earlier this month in the regular season, but with a refreshed Arkansas State team awaiting this bruised Trojans squad, the tables could be turned.
GAME NOTES: The quarterfinal round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament
begins on Friday with a matchup pitting the fifth-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock
Trojans against the fourth-seeded Arkansas State Red Wolves at New Orleans
Lakefront Arena.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: New Orleans Lakefront Arena (8,933) -- New Orleans,
Louisiana. Television: Sun Belt Network. Home Record: UALR 8-6, Arkansas State
11-4. Away Record: UALR 6-9, Arkansas State 7-8. Neutral Record: UALR 1-1,
Arkansas State 0-0. Conference Record: UALR 9-9, Arkansas State 10-8. Series
Record: Arkansas State leads, 48-30.Game Date and Time
Friday, March 14, 7 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Arkansas State 73, Arkansas-Little Rock 66