Jones explodes out of slump in Little Rock win


LITTLE ROCK -- Sophomore Andre Jones, of Malvern, burst out of a shooting slump Thursday to lead the Little Rock Trojans in a 77-65 takedown of the preseason Sun Belt Conference favorite, UT-Arlington, at the Jack Stephens Center.

The Trojans (5-13, 2-3) race out to a big lead early and never looked back. The Mavericks (11-7, 2-3) have yet to assert themselves in Sun Belt play.

The effort was led by a strong outing from Jones, who led Little Rock with 24 points and eight rebounds, both just shy of his career highs. Jones went 9-for-16 from the floor and 5-for-7 from the free throw line, scoring 14 in the second half to help put the game away.

Jaizec Lottie, a guard from Aurora, Colo., provided the spark early for the Trojans, scoring 13 of his career-high 16 points in the first half. The freshman was 5 of 9 shooting and 4 of 5 from the free throw line.

Guards Ryan Pippins, a sophomore from Little Rock Parkview, and Ben Marcus, from Watson Chapel, both finished in double figures as well for the Trojans, whose 77 points was their second-highest point total of the season. Pippins finished with 11 points and four rebounds, while Marcus added 10 points and five boards off the bench.

Kris Bankston, a 6-8 freshman forward from J.A. Fair, added seven points and four rebounds after earning the start in his hometown. Redshirt junior Oliver Back, from Jackson, Miss., finished with six points and six rebounds.

The Trojans scored 10 of the first 12 points of the game, including six early from Lottie. Arlington whittled away at the lead, pulling to within one on three separate occasions, the last of which came at 15-14 at the 11:50 mark.

Little Rock's defense forced a pair of Maverick turnovers, sparking a 21-8 run for Little Rock over the next seven and a half minutes. Lottie was instrumental in the run, scoring 13 first half-points, tying his career-high. Jones added 10 of his own, marking the first time this season the Trojans had a pair of players in double figures before halftime.

The lead increased to as many as 14 points as Little Rock led 36-22 off a three from Pippins at the 3:19 mark, withstanding a 10-3 Maverick run to end the half and carry a 39-32 lead into the locker room. Little Rock forced 13 first-half turnovers, leading to a 17-4 edge in points off turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

The Mavericks used a 7-0 run out of the locker room to tie the game at 39-39. That run was matched by a 9-2 run for the Trojans, sparked by Lottie's corner three, extending the lead back to seven at 48-41.

Little Rock would push the lead back to 14 at 57-43, energized by Maverick flagrant foul on Marcus that sparked a 10-3 Trojan run. The advantage grew to 16 at 66-50, capped by back-to-back slams from Marcus and Bankston, a lead the Trojans would never relinquish.

Kevin Hervey led the Mavericks with 21 points and seven rebounds. The Trojans are now 4-5 all-time against Arlington and are now 5-4 at home this season. The program sits at 994 total wins.

Submitted photo DRIVING THROUGH: Malvern's Andre Jones drives toward the basket during Thursday's 77-65 home win over UT-Arlington, the preseason Sun ...

The 24 points for Jones was his most since a 74-66 home loss on Dec. 2 to Oral Roberts (7-12, 3-1 in the Summit League) when he scored 25 points in 43 minutes. He scored 24 points in 30 minutes during a 71-65 win over Central Arkansas (9-9, 3-2 in the Southland Conference).

Jones led the team in scoring at 13 points per game, but he was held in single digits four times in the last seven games, only scoring as much as 13 twice during the stretch. His scoring average now sits at 11.8 points per game. He also averages 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, both marks ranking second on the team.

Black's scoring average is now 8.3 points per game. Pippins now averages 8.1 points per game after playing in the last seven games.

Little Rock finished the game shooting 51 percent from the floor, hitting 26 of 51 shots, including 5 of 15 from 3-point range. The biggest difference for the Trojans came from the free throw line as Little Rock hit a season-high 20 of 29 free throw attempts, 69 percent.

Defensively, the Trojans held Arlington to nearly 14 points under its season average. The Mavericks shot just 39.1 percent from the field, 25 of 64, and 20.7 percent from 3-point range, 6 of 29. Little Rock forced Arlington into 21 turnovers on the night, leading to a 24-11 edge in points off turnovers.

Little Rock hosts Texas State (11-7, 4-1) at 5 p.m. today and will welcome Arkansas State (6-12, 1-4) to the Jack Stephens Center Saturday at 5 p.m. The women's teams for the in-state rivals will open a doubleheader at 3 p.m.

Sports on 01/13/2018

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