Tro­jans grab wins, but in­juries mount

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Sports - CHRIS­TIAN BOUTWELL

The week­end was fan­tas­tic. The reap­pear­ance of two crit­i­cal in­juries to UALR’s start­ing back­court were not.

The Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock’s men’s bas­ket­ball team went 2-0 this past week­end and swept a Sun Belt Con­fer­ence road se­ries for the first time since Feb. 18-20, 2016, when the Tro­jans took out the Ge­or­gia schools.

UALR (9-15, 4-7) de­feated Troy 84-70 on Thurs­day and South Alabama 73-68 on Sat­ur­day. The Tro­jans’ road sweep also com­pleted sea­son sweeps of the Alabama schools af­ter de­feat­ing both at the Jack Stephens Cen­ter

in Lit­tle Rock in mid-Jan­uary.

But here is the bad news. Start­ing fresh­man point guard Markquis Now­ell, UALR’s se­cond-lead­ing scorer with 12.7 points per game, suf­fered a “pretty good” an­kle sprain Sat­ur­day and may be side­lined for a se­cond time this sea­son with an in­jured an­kle.

Sopho­more guard Jaizec Lot­tie, a starter who missed three games with a bro­ken fin­ger from Dec. 22-Jan. 5, rein­jured his hand dur­ing the week­end and did not play Sat­ur­day.

“Well, our is­sue now is Markquis go­ing to be out for a long time?” UALR Coach Dar­rell Walker said Sun­day. “Is Lot­tie go­ing to be out a long time with his hand again? I’m back to that again.”

Now­ell missed three games from Nov. 28-Dec. 4 with a high an­kle sprain.

Now­ell in­jured his other an­kle Sat­ur­day, not the an­kle with in­jury his­tory, Walker said.

The in­juries forced UALR to play red­shirt ju­nior guard Rayjon Tucker, the team’s lead­ing scorer at 20.5 points per game, all 40 min­utes of Sat­ur­day’s vic­tory. They also prompted Walker to in­sert se­nior for­ward Dani Kol­janin into the start­ing lineup for the first time in his ca­reer.

Walker opted to keep red­shirt ju­nior Deon­dre Burns as a boost off the bench. Burns, who is third on the Tro­jans at 10.4 points per game, and Tucker han­dled much of Now­ell and Lot­tie’s point guard du­ties Sat­ur­day.

Kol­janin, who played 17 min­utes, his most in a Sun Belt game this sea­son, had four points and four re­bounds. In 27 min­utes, Burns fin­ished with six points and two as­sists.

“It is what it is,” Walker said. “We’re go­ing to take our time, come back home and get ready for Thurs­day.”

UALR will host the Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Ar­ling­ton at 6:30 p.m. Thurs­day at the Jack Stephens Cen­ter and Texas State at 3 p.m. Sat­ur­day. Texas-Ar­ling­ton and Texas State are tied for first in the Sun Belt at 8-3.

With Lot­tie’s hand still swollen Sun­day, Walker is hope­ful he may be well

enough to play Thurs­day, but it seemed un­likely when asked Sun­day. Walker did not of­fer a time­line for Now­ell.

If there is any good news for UALR’s in­jured back­court, ju­nior guard Ryan Pip­pins, one of its re­li­able re­serves, re­turned from an an­kle in­jury Sat­ur­day.

Pip­pins played five min­utes and recorded one re­bound in his first ac­tion since Jan. 5. Mostly spent with a boot sup­port­ing his an­kle, Pip­pins missed eight games be­fore his brief re­turn Sat­ur­day.

His an­kle is still not “100 per­cent,” Walker said, but Pip­pins is ex­pected to play in a lim­ited ca­pac­ity Thurs­day.

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