For the second time in three years, the Trojans women’s basketball team has won the Sun Belt championship.
Little Rock clinched an outright Sun Belt regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the league tournament with a 52-45 victory over Georgia State Feb. 25 at the Jack Stephens Center.
As the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Little Rock will get a first-round bye and will not have to play a game until the second round on Thursday, March 9, at 11:30 a.m. Little Rock will play the winner of the March 7 first-round game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds.
The win also completed Little Rock’s perfect Sun Belt Conference home record, as the Trojans went 9-0 against league foes at the Jack Stephens Center this year. The win was Little Rock’s 18th straight conference win at home.
Lastly, Little Rock guaranteed itself a spot in the national postseason, as the regular-season conference champion from every league earns an automatic bid in the Postseason WNIT if it does not make the NCAA Tournament.
The Trojans (21-7, 15-1 Sun Belt) got a strong offensive game from the forward corps of Kaitlyn Pratt, Carolee Dillard, and Ronjanae DeGray as the trio scored 38 of the team’s points on Saturday. Pratt led the way with 16 points and had six rebounds, and DeGray had 14 points and six rebounds as well. Dillard finished the night with 8 points.
Kyra Collier was the top Trojan rebounder with 10 boards, and Monique Townson had a team-high five assists.
The outcome was in doubt until the final minutes. With Little Rock leading by as many as 12 in the third quarter, Georgia State fought back to get within 2 points at 43-41 with 2:20 left. But Little Rock got consecutive baskets from offensive rebounds as DeGray got a layup and Collier followed with a layup of her own on the next possession. That made it a 47-41 Little Rock lead with 52 seconds left and all but clinched the victory.
The Trojans outrebounded Georgia State 41-29 including an 18-10 margin on the offensive glass. Little Rock scored 18 second-chance points in the game.
The Trojan guards struggled to score in the first half, but the forwards picked up the slack by scoring 27 of the team’s 30 points in the first 20 minutes. Little Rock’s guards did not make a shot until Sharde’ Collins hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left in the half, and the group of guards was 1-14 from the field in the first half.
Little Rock will close out the regular season with a trip to Alabama, facing South Alabama on Thursday at 5 p.m. and Troy on Saturday at 2 p.m.