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Women cruise to victory over Troy in Sun Belt tourney

Submitted by Jacob Ellerbee on March 9, 2013 – 11:34 pmOne Comment

Freshman Shanity James (left) looks on as teammate Taylor Gault strips Troy's Ashley Beverly-Kelley of the ball during UALR's 65-52 win in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Photo by Jacob Ellerbee

The UALR women’s basketball team (No. 2 seed) won 65-52 in its first game of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament against the Troy Trojans (No. 10 seed) in a 2:30 p.m. matchup Saturday, March 9 on the Summit Arena court in Hot Springs.

After finishing with one of the best records in the league, UALR had a target on its back. The team had to put aside all of the success and winning streaks they enjoyed during the regular season.

“We just had to erase everything and get prepared for the game, take it one game at a time,” sophomore Kiera Clark  said after the game.

Both teams struggled to make shots throughout the game. In fact, despite Troy shooting at a slightly more efficient clip from the field (14-49 to UALR’s 20-64), UALR was able to maintain control of the game by knocking down key free throws down the stretch.

“Offensively, you never know if you’re going to have a hot hand or not,” head coach Joe Foley said. “But, you can always play great defense. To me that was the difference in the game.”

Sophomore Taylor Gault, who was inserted back into the starting lineup to replace an injured Ka’Nesheia Cobbins, came up big for the Trojans in multiple ways including knocking in a game-high 22 points, half of which came from free throws.

In his post game press conference, Foley said he did not expect Cobbins to be available for action in the tournament.

Freshman Shanity James helped pace UALR by achieving  a double double: 10 points and 13 rebounds. Clark evenly dispersed her efforts by filling the stat sheet for UALR. Clark scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out four assists and snagged four steals.

The women’s win can be traced back to the 11:21 mark of the first half. The score was tied at seven apiece, but then UALR went on a scoring frenzy.

Senior Janette Merriex knocked down two three-point shots and James, Gault and freshman Carolee Dillard chipped in two points each to cap a 12-3 UALR run.

Additionally, the Trojans of Troy could not handle the defensive pressure from UALR, which rattled Troy into 10 turnovers in the first half.

Going into halftime, UALR had a 34-24 lead.

The second half held more of the same for UALR, which took the ball inside the paint and attacked the basket to make up for a lack connecting on jump shots. UALR accumulated nearly half of its second half points in the paint.

The only thing between UALR and victory was a matter of knocking down free throws. During the regular season, UALR hit an average of 62.2 percent of its free throws. For this game, UALR knocked down 12 of 15 second-half free throws to seal victory of the number 10 seed, Troy 65-52.

The UALR women’s basketball team will take on number-three seed Western Kentucky at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10.

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