Jan. 29, 2009
BOCA RATON, FL - Arkansas-Little Rock staved off a late charge by Florida Atlantic Thursday night, winning a Sun Belt Conference road game at the FAU Arena 66-59.
Senior guard Paul Graham III scored 22 points and had a season-high five assists for Florida Atlantic (4-18; 0-10 Sun Belt).
UALR (15-6; 8-2 Sun Belt) shot 54% from the field and received 17 points from senior forward Shane Edwards. Steven Moore added 12 for a Trojans team that sits atop the Sun Belt's West Division standings at 8-2.
"The kids continue to battle when we are behind," said FAU head coach Mike Jarvis, who is armed with just eight available scholarship players. "You have to use a tremendous amount of energy to come back. It doesn't matter how good or how deep you are, when you have to come back it takes a lot of energy."
The short-handed Owls have lost 13 straight.
UALR jumped out to a 19-9 lead as Florida Atlantic made just 3 of its first 14 shots.
A Brett Royster slam sparked a 7-2 Owls run the first half that got FAU to within five, 21-16, with 7:29 remaining before the intermission. Royster had eight points and four blocks for FAU and freshman Shavar Richardson scored 11.
UALR's Moore scored seven in the opening half and FAU's Graham had nine. The pair figure to be named All-Sun Belt Conference guards at season's end.
The Trojans had led 35-24 at halftime.
FAU pulled to within three, 36-33, in the opening stages of the second half but a long jump shot by Edwards gave the Trojans their largest lead of 15, 48-33, at the 13:31 mark.
Edwards made 6 of his 11 attempts from the field. The 6-foot-7 senior forward entered the game as one of the league's top shooters (49%).
The UALR lead was 13 when Graham dropped in a mid-range jumper and Alex Tucker followed with a three-point play in transition to make it 54-46 with 8:04 on the clock.
FAU trailed by just five, 65-53 with 6 minutes left after a triple by Graham. Graham continued to cut into the UALR lead, making four unanswered free throws under the two minute mark to make it 63-59.
Leading by four in the closing moments the Trojans' John Fowler banked-in what would be the decisive basket, extending the lead to six and insuring UALR of retaining the best record among all Sun Belt teams.
"We are going to have something very special here," added Jarvis after the game. "We have to go through these tough times before we can move forward. A lot of teams would have quit a long time ago. I hope and pray, and truly do not believe, this team is going to quit."