Trojans gun big from afar; Bears misfire

 

LITTLE ROCK — Little Rock University gives out T-shirts every time a 3-pointer is made.

The supplier likely had to dip into reserves Saturday afternoon.

 

The Trojans (8-2) were 15 of 27 from 3-point range on the way to sweeping the teams’ Rock N Roar rivalry with a 70-59 victory before 3,044 at the Jack Stephens Center.

Little Rock guard Marcus Johnson Jr. was hot enough from long range that he could have left with a sack of teddy bears at the state fair. He set an arena record of 9 treys (on 11 shots) on the way to 29 points. He didn’t make a two-point shot.

“That’s a 29 percent shooter (on the season),” said UCA coach Russ Pennell, whose team fell to 1-8.

“I got some open looks,” said Johnson. “It started in shootaround. The basket was just big tonight.”

“If he gets hot, it’s over,” said Trojan center Lis Shoshi, who had 14 rebounds. “My job is to find him.”

However, Pennell didn’t think the 3-point barrage was what beat the Bears, who were 17 of 54 (31.5 percent) from the field to Little Rock’s 24 of 61 (39.3 percent overall).

“It was our ineptness on offense,” he said. “When they hit 15 3s, why didn’t they beat us by 30? Johnson was hot and had a great game. But we missed too many easy baskets or layups or shots when we had open looks. We had good ball movement at times, then it stopped. I think our strength is in our shooting and we’re just not shooting well right now.”

The Trojans led for all but 1:30. But the Bears hung around.

UCA, which lost, 89-87, to the Trojans in Conway, led 47-46 on a driving basket by Derreck Brooks with 13:49 left.

Then, UCA, with missed shots and turnovers, had six straight scoreless possessions that prompted a 9-0 run.

The Bears again cut the deficit to five on two Brooks’ free throws with 7:56 left.

That was followed another scoreless streak of six straight possessions and Little Rock pulled away for good with a 3-pointer by Jalyn Jackson and a fallaway putback by Soshin on Johnson’s only wild shot of the game.

“You can’t have six straight empty possessions and beat a good team,” Pennell said. “You certainly can’t do it twice. And we were getting good looks. It wasn’t turnovers; we just had 11. We just missed shots.”

Kenny Osse and Shoshi were the only other Trojans in double figures with 12 and 10, respectively.

Jordan Howard led UCA with 21 points, followed by Brooks with 14.

“They (the Bears) closed the paint off and we had to go to the 3,” said LRU coach Wes Flanigan. “In Conway, we got what we wanted in the paint. I’m not saying I want 27 3-pointers every game, but that’s what it took to win tonight.”

“We’re got to keep battling,” said Pennell. “We are better than 1-8. We can keep battling or get disappointed and hang our heads and not be able to win when we get to Southland Conference play.

“Our staff has to keep coaching the same way and keep encouraging.”

The Bears have another major challenge Wednesday when they play at Michigan.

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