Sluggish Trojans eke out victory UALR women survive, improve to 10-1 in Sun Belt play
UALR 47, SOUTH ALABAMA 44
Saturday was never really about South Alabama.
The only way the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s women’s basketball team could lose Saturday was if it defeated itself somehow.
Turnovers, allowing excessive offensive rebounds, an ice-cold shooting day and lazy defense were all contributing factors in a storm of self-inflicted damages appearing late in Saturday’s 47-44 victory against South Alabama at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, but the Trojans survived.
“We played completely slow,” said UALR senior forward Ronjanae DeGray, who finished with a team-high 15 points. “Lackadaisical. We had no energy.”
“We just squeezed it out,” Coach Joe Foley added, “but it wasn’t a good feeling.”
Foley’s primary criticism of the Trojans’ 47-point performance, which tied their fourth-lowest point total of the season, was they had yet to wake up from the euphoria brought by Thursday’s 76-72 victory against Troy.
Troy had the Sun Belt Conference’s top scoring offense and was the best rebounding team in the country before UALR defeated it at the Jack Stephens Center. The adrenaline had yet to wear off less than 48 hours later.
“One of those games,” Foley said. “You come off the big ‘W’ and sometimes it’s hard for us to get refocused. [South Alabama is] a good ball club. That’s what I’m talking about when you’ve only got one day to prepare. Sometimes it’s really tough to do. And we didn’t do a good job.”
The Trojans (14-8, 10-1) held a lead for 32 minutes, 3 seconds of the victory, the school’s eighth in a row, and did not run into much trouble until the second half when UALR nearly blew it.
Holding a 10-point lead, UALR went on a scoring drought for the final 5:26 minutes of the third quarter. The Trojans committed six turnovers and scored seven points in the quarter. South Alabama (17-5, 6-5) scored eight unanswered points to end the third trailing 31-29.
On the first possession of the fourth quarter, South Alabama senior center India Hall connected on a jumper for a 31-31 tie with 9:47 remaining.
“[I said] everything I could say,” Foley said. “Everything I knew about coaching, I tried to use. I just kept switching and hopefully someone would go to work.”
UALR sophomore forward Teal Battle tossed the Trojans’ 15th of 16 total turnovers on their next possession. Jaguars freshman guard Mahogany Vaught took Battle’s errant pass coast-to-coast for a layup to put South Alabama ahead 33-31.
In need of busting a long and agonizing offensive slump in the second half, UALR sophomore guard Tori Lasker made a three-pointer with 7:28 remaining to regain the lead at 34-33.
Following Lasker’s basket, both teams began trading scores. Neither held a two-possession lead until the final minute, when UALR’s defense stiffened and South Alabama began sending the Trojans to the free-throw line.
DeGray made two free throws with 22 seconds remaining to push UALR’s lead to 43-39. South Alabama sophomore guard Savannah Jones countered with a three-pointer and UALR’s lead went to one.
Trojans junior guard Kyra Collier added two more free throws with 11 seconds left and UALR held a 45-42 lead it wouldn’t lose.
Trailing by three, South Alabama chose to shoot a layup with 2 seconds left. UALR sophomore guard Terrion Moore then secured the victory with two more free throws.
DeGray, Collier and Moore went 6 for 6 under pressure and effectively cleaned the Trojans’ messy game.
“We’re working,” Foley said. “And we’ve got to get a little better. But we’re also winning, and that’s all you can ask for.”
UALR senior Ronjanae DeGray (right) shoots while being defended by South Alabama junior Christen Carter during Saturday’s game at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
UALR’s Krystan Vornes pulls down a rebound over South Alabama’s Mahogany Vaught during the second quarter of the Trojans’ 4744 victory Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.