Enough cushion

Published 30 November 2017

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock women snapped a three-game losing streak Tuesday, even though the Trojans did not shake their second-half struggles.

Junior forward Raeyana DeGray scored 16 points, sophomore Kyra Collier handed out eight assists, and freshman Tori Lasker was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final 54.5 seconds as the Trojans held off Oklahoma for a 68-56 victory at the Jack Stephens Center.

The Trojans (2-3) never trailed but an 18-point third-quarter advantage dwindled to as little as 52-49 with 5:27 to play.

"That's just what we are," Trojans Coach Joe Foley said. "We're just trying to learn how to play through things when we're tired.

"People notice that you make more turnovers when you're tired but you're also making more mistakes on defense. We've just got to get a little tougher, grind it out and get used to it."

The Trojans are now 2-6 against the Sooners, winning their past two games against Oklahoma at the Stephens Center. UALR is now 5-13 all-time against Big 12 teams.

Four Trojans finished with 10 or more points. Raeyana DeGray's sister Ronjanae scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half. Collier and senior guard Monique Townson each added 10 points.

Oklahoma guards Gabi Ortiz and Shaina Pellington were held to a combined eight points in the first half, but both finished with 15 points. Ortiz hit all three of her three-point attempts in the third quarter. Pellington scored nine of her points in the fourth quarter.

The Trojans entered the game having been outscored 137-107 in the second half. In their past two outings, UALR led Texas A&M for most of the first half but wound up taking a 66-49 loss on Nov. 22. Two days later, Rice used a 32-18 second-half effort to post a 58-51 victory.

Back in Little Rock on Tuesday, Oklahoma (3-3) put a second-half scare into the Trojans but could not overcome a 1-of-10 shooting effort to start the game. The Sooners fell behind 16-2 seven minutes into the contest. By halftime, the Trojans had expanded their lead to 36-20.

"It honestly [surprised] me," said Raeyana DeGray, who was 7-of-13 shooting with 5 rebounds. "I didn't expect that, but I kept working off my teammates trying to do as much as I could do."

While the Trojans hit 16 of 32 shots from the floor in the first half, the Sooners hit only 9 of 30.

"I thought our kids played real hard on defense," said Foley, whose team came up with nine steals and forced 20 turnovers. "The first half we shot the ball well and you saw what happened. In the second half, we didn't shoot it quite as well but overall, playing against a program like that, it was a heckuva defensive effort."

UALR finished 25 of 59 from the floor, and five of those shots were blocked by 6-4 senior center Vionise Pierre-Louis.

"We were driving in trying to score when we shouldn't have," Foley said. "[Pierre-Louis] is too good of a player. We should have been driving it and kicking it out to someone else. We lost concentration as to what to do, and again that's just having young players on the floor."

The Sooners never put together more than four consecutive points in the first half and were never closer than 12 points in the final 8:51 of the second quarter.

The Trojans' lead grew to 46-28 with 5:25 left in the third quarter after a short jumper by freshman guard Terrion Moore capped an 8-0 UALR run.

But Oklahoma outscored the Trojans 13-5 to end the quarter, then scored 8 of the first 9 points of the fourth quarter.

The Sooners were within 55-51 with 3:23 to play, but back-to-back baskets from Ronjanae DeGray and Keanna Key, plus two free throws from Raeyana DeGray, pushed the Trojans lead back to 61-51 with 1:49 remaining.

Lasker's six consecutive free throws in the final minute put the game out of reach.

"She came up with some very clutch shots," Raeyana DeGray said. "I was very proud of her, coming in and knocking down those free throws when we needed them the most."

Collier, who also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, handed out five of her eight assists in the first half. She was held to only one point in the final two quarters.

"I'll take eight assists any day," Foley said. "To me, that's even more important than scoring, and she looks to get assists. We've moved her to the point this year, and I think it's going to pay off."

SOUTHLAND WOMEN

CENTRAL ARKANSAS 106, CROWLEY’S RIDGE 23

The University of Central Arkansas scored at least 21 points in each quarter and held NAIA Crowley’s Ridge College to no more than seven in a blowout victory at the Farris Center on Tuesday night in Conway. Ten players scored for the Sugar Bears (3-1) with Hannah Langhi leading the way with 19 points. Kamry Orr had 15. Mekaylan Hicks had 14, followed by Savannah Lowe (12), Taylor Baudoin (11) and Kierra Jordan (10). Chelsie Spencer led Crowley’s Ridge with nine points. Central Arkansas shot 59.4 percent (41 of 69) from the floor, including 13 of 27 on three pointers. Central Arkansas outrebounded Crowley’s Ridge 54-25.

Sports on 11/29/2017