Heartache in Hot Springs
The UALR women’s basketball team could not make shots down the stretch March 11 against Middle Tennessee State University in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament, which resulted in an unfavorable finish for the Trojans. MTSU began to chip away at UALR’s seven point lead with just under 12 minutes remaining in the game. At that point, MTSU went on a scoring barrage and ended the game on a 20-8 scoring run.
The Trojans hit a dry spell, knocking down only seven shots in the second half. UALR scored near the 10 minute mark of the second half , but would not score another field goal until about the three minute mark of the game.
The scoring run by the Blue Raiders, paired with the shooting dry spell, proved to be too much for the Trojans to take on. The final score from Summit Arena in Hot Springs was 53-48, giving UALR its first loss since Jan. 19 when the team played at Western Kentucky.
“Both teams played extremely hard,” head coach Joe Foley said. “It came down to being able to get it inside and draw more fouls. They beat us at the free throw line.”
The numbers Foley is referring to would be the 20 personal fouls that were called against UALR. Five of them going against junior Taylor Ford, who fouled out of the game before the final buzzer sounded. Additionally, MTSU was able to get to the free throw line 25 times, knocking down 17 of them. UALR went to the line just seven times for the entire game.
“We just let it slip away,” freshman Shanity James said. “They hit some major free throws. We had some fouls that we didn’t need.”
MTSU’s Ebony Rowe gave a rousing performance in the title game, finishing with 20 points-12 of which came off of made free throws- and 13 rebounds. Additionally, MTSU’s Kortni Jones, the Sun Belt Tournament MVP, scored 15 points and dished out four assists in the victory.
UALR had its fair share of premier performers, as sophomore Taylor Gault and teammate James were named to the All-Tournament team.
Gault provided 13 points (on 6 of 23 shooting) and three assists for UALR.
After the game, Gault acknowledge her shooting struggles. “I couldn’t get the ball, I couldn’t see anything,” she said. Gault said MTSU’s Jones and Janay Brinkley were shutting her down on defense. “I told my teammates to step it up and make some shots, because I can’t see anything.”
Gault found help in the form of sophomore Kiera Clark and James as well.
James totaled 14 points and pulled down seven rebound, while Clark finished the game by earning her first career double double. Her 17 rebounds nearly comprised half of the team’s 39 total rebounds. She also chipped in 11 points.
After the game, Foley said he’s looking forward to getting his young team back on the court to get more experience under its belt. Foley anticipates an invite to the National Invitation Tournament, which features 64 of the best teams not invited to the NCAA Tournament.
The Trojans will learn if and who they will play Monday, March 18.
This was the final Sun Belt Conference game for UALR senior Janette Merriex. The team ends its season with a record of 24-8, with hopes of playing at least one more game in the NIT Tournament.