UALR women work up sweat in clincher
The UALR Trojans entered their matchup with Georgia State having never lost to the Panthers in a Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball game, with six of their seven victories coming by 15 or more points.
Form held Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, but the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s 52-45 title-clinching victory was anything but easy and never really a certainty until the final 42 seconds.
The Trojans ( 20-7, 14-1) led by 12 with 5: 02 left to play in the third quarter, but when Georgia State’s Tiffany Holston hit a layup with 2:19 left to play in the game, what looked like a sure coronation got a lot more interesting.
Back-to-back field goals from Ronjanae DeGray and Kyra Collier settled the Trojans, and UALR hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 44 seconds to clinch the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament and a first-round bye in New Orleans.
It’s the second time in three seasons UALR has won an outright regular-season championship under Coach Joe Foley, and the Trojans have won 18 consecutive Sun Belt games at the Jack Stephens Center.
“This is a blue- collar team, there’s no doubt about that,” Foley said of a team that clinched a spot in the postseason WNIT if it doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament. “There’s no high- flying, high- profile athletes. The thing I enjoy about coaching this team is because they pull for each other, they care for each other. And that’s why we’re winning.”
The Trojans led by as many as 10 in the first half, but almost a third of their points came at the free-throw line, where they made 9 of 10, to go along with 10 field goals.
Leading scorer Sharde Collins, who averages 15 points per game, was scoreless until hitting a corner three-pointer just before the second quarter ended, and UALR went into halftime up 30-21.
Collins finished with six points on 2-of-15 shooting, but UALR’s post players picked up her slack.
“You know, if our guards had been hitting, this probably wouldn’t have even been a game,” Foley said.
Senior post Kaitlyn Pratt led the Trojans with 16 points. DeGray finished with 14.
“Coach told us early on that the post was going to have to pick it up,” Pratt said.