Slug­gish Tro­jans eke out vic­tory UALR women sur­vive, im­prove to 10-1 in Sun Belt play

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - CHRIS­TIAN BOUTWELL


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.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/THOMAS METTHE

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.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/THOMAS METTHE

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.

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