HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -
The Trojans pushed their winning streak to 13 games and reached the finals of
the Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the fifth consecutive year as UALR
(24-7) knocked off Western Kentucky (21-10) 74-54 Sunday afternoon (March 10).
The Lady Toppers had won the previous two meetings on the
season, but UALR improves to 12-3 since 2007-08 in in-season rematches where it
had previously lost.
UALR was red hot to start both halves, hitting nine if it's
first 15 shots in each stanza. The Trojans shot 29-61 (47.5 percent) with 20 assists
against a season-low six turnovers in the contest. UALR forced 19 WKU turnovers and converted
them into 27 points.
A quartet of Trojans reached double digits in scoring.
Sophomore Taylor Gault led the way
with 18 points, four assists and a pair of thefts. Freshman Shanity James contributed 15 points and
a team-high nine rebounds. Sophomore Kiera
Clark scored 14 points and career bests with five assists and four steals.
Junior Taylor Ford
scored 13 points and tallied a helper on seven baskets.
For Western Kentucky, Alexis Govan scored 29 points while
Chastity Gooch recorded 11 points and grabbed a team-best 13 rebounds.
UALR trailed for only 2:29 in the game, taking control early
with a pair of 10-0 runs. Down 7-4, Gault grabbed a steal and hit Clark in
stride. The Trojans followed when Ford poked the ball free and sprinted down
the court for the fastbreak layup. Clark then hit James after a defensive board
and Clark added a jumper. James hit a pair from the charity stripe after the
first media timeout as UALR scored on five-straight possessions to take a 14-7
lead at the 15:00 minute mark.
With the Trojans up 18-11, UALR threw another 10-0 run at
the Lady Toppers. Gault tripled on the top of the arc and shook off her
defender just inside the arc for a jumper. Gault hit an elbow jumper and Ford
completed an old-fashioned three. UALR led 28-11 with 9:14 left in the first
WKU threatened late in the first half with a 5-0 run of its
own to cut the deficit back to single digits. Chaney Means hit a three for
Western Kentucky and Gooch added the layup to cut it to 31-22. UALR responded
when junior Hannah Fohne worked
underneath and found James for the layup to push the lead to more than 10 for
good in the contest. James made a fastbreak layup off a Clark theft and Ford
hit a final jumper as UALR led 37-25 going into halftime.
In the first half alone, UALR scored 17 points off of 11
miscues for Western Kentucky. UALR had only a pair of turnovers, tied for the
lowest in a half on the season by the Trojans (second half SMU).
UALR erased all doubt when it came out and scored the first
15 points in six of the first seven possessions of the second period. After a
stop, Fohne found Clark deep in the paint for the layup. Gault tripled from the
left wing and James completed a three the hard way. Gault hit a pair of jumpers
around a steal and a fastbreak layup by Clark as UALR blew the game open to a
52-25 advantage with 16:41 left. UALR built the lead to 28 and never led by
less than 19. WKU cut the UALR advantage to 71-52 with a minute left, but senior
Janette Merriex hit her second
triple of the game with 47 ticks left as UALR cruised to the 74-54 victory.
The 54 points for Western Kentucky was the third lowest for
the Lady Toppers this season.
UALR returns to action tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the finals of
the SBC Tournament. The game will be shown live nationally on ESPNU.