Arkansas-Little Rock starts strong but fades in 2nd half of 73-59 loss to No. 16 Memphis

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Arkansas-Little Rock stayed right with No. 16 Memphis until about the midway point of the second half.

That's when the Trojans ran out of gas.

The result was a deceiving 73-59 loss to the Tigers on Friday night. Arkansas-Little Rock not only led by as many as 12 in the first half, but was tied with Memphis with less than 7 minutes to go.

"We had some turnovers late," Trojans coach Steve Shields said. "We didn't finish some plays at the rim. We had a 3-on-1 opportunity that we weren't able to finish. I was proud of our guys. We played hard. We played together."

Josh Hagins led Arkansas-Little Rock (3-6) with 17 points, connecting on 6 of 11 shots. Will Neighbour scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half as the Trojans built the double-digit lead.

Until the midway point of the second half, Arkansas-Little Rock controlled the game, even to the point of thwarting any run by the Tigers.

"I thought our guys moved the basketball well in the first half," Shields said. "I thought we were aggressive versus their pressure. We weren't passive. We hit some cutters versus the press.

"I thought we got away from that a little bit in the second half, and we got a little bit tentative. Memphis will force you to do that."

For his part, Memphis coach Josh Pastner was so frustrated by his team's lack of focus that he didn't make any players available postgame.

"They kicked our butt that first half, really probably the first 30 minutes or so," Pastner said.

Shaq Goodwin and Joe Jackson scored 17 points apiece to lead the Tigers (7-1), but Jackson was 3 for 11 from the field.

Geron Johnson added 13 points for Memphis, which shot 52 percent in the second half for its sixth consecutive victory. Goodwin also had nine rebounds.

The Tigers outrebounded the Trojans 41-32 and scored 28 points off 17 Arkansas-Little Rock turnovers.

"Our guys came out, and I don't know what it was," said Pastner, who mentioned players were dealing with finals this week. "They thought they could go away from the system that has been working for us."

Pastner doesn't have a lot of time to get the Tigers back on track; they play No. 19 Florida in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday.

Arkansas-Little Rock played with more passion in the first half, and Memphis struggled on offense early in the game. The Tigers missed 12 of their first 14 shots and were shooting 20 percent with 5 minutes remaining before the break.

"We wanted to be sound, but aggressive defensively," Shields said. "We felt like we had to switch it on them some, and go some zone and switch it back to man. We were fortunate they missed some shots early as well."

The Trojans held a 31-24 lead at the break, and Memphis didn't lead until it went up 42-41 on Chris Crawford's 3-pointer with 11:44 left.

It was back and forth for a while from there, before Memphis grabbed control with a 12-1 spree. David Pellom got it started with two baskets, and Jackson closed it out with five straight points.

The run gave Memphis a 58-49 lead with 4 minutes left, and the Trojans never threatened again.

Pastner was particularly critical of his senior guards - Jackson, Johnson Crawford and Michael Dixon - saying they didn't show leadership in getting the team to play hard.

"When they don't play well, our team is not going to be as good," Pastner said. "We need those guys to be really good every single time on the floor. We're counting on those guys to be elite — not individually, but collectively."