HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -
UALR (24-8), who made the championship game for the 5th-straight year,
fell to Middle Tennessee (25-7) Monday (March 11). It was the fourth meeting in
five seasons for the Trojans and Blue Raiders in the postseason.
UALR shot 33.3 percent (21-63) for the game and held Middle
Tennessee to 32.7 percent (16-49), but the Blue Raiders out-rebounded the
Trojans 44-39. MTSU also took advantage of a 25-7 advantage in shots from the
charity stripe, hitting 17 to UALR's five.
Individually, sophomore Kiera
Clark recorded her first double-double of her collegiate career with 11
points and a UALR season-best 17 boards. Clark's previous career best was nine
Gault earned All-Tournament honors with her third double-digit scoring game
since returning to the starting line-up. She scored 13 points and dished out a
trio of assists. Joining Gault on the All-Tournament squad was freshman Shanity James. James finished with 14
points, 11 in the first half alone, and seven rebounds.
For Middle Tennessee, Ebony Rowe led all scorers with 20 points and completed the
double-double with 13 boards. Kortni Jones scored 15 points and added four
assists but threw a game-high seven turnovers.
Trailing 8-0 in the first four minutes, UALR went on a 9-0
run to take its first lead. UALR missed its first six shots before Gault
started the Trojans' scoring with a jumper. Junior Taylor Ford knocked down a jumper and Gault hit a short pull-up
shot in the paint to bring UALR within two. James split from the line and then
hit a layup as UALR led 9-8 with 10:48 left.
Tied at 15, Jones hit a triple, the third MTSU shot from
downtown in the game. Gault answered right back to tie the game with a friendly
bounce on the rim by Gault from downtown with 6:03 until the break. Down 20-18, James
grabbed a loose ball and sprinted down the court to knot the game. Clark and James
added layups around MTSU splitting from the line. Jones brought MTSU within one
with a jumper, but James hit another driving layup with 20 seconds left. The
Blue Raiders' Jones capped the half with a layup as UALR led 26-25 in
The Trojans came out hot in the second half. Junior Hannah
Fohne missed a layup, but James cleaned the glass and completed the hard three
for her only points in the second stanza. After a MTSU miscue, Clark hit a
jumper as UALR led 33-27 with 16:13 left. The Blue Raiders hit a pair from the
charity stripe before a Ford jumper gave UALR a 36-29 lead with 13:59 left, its
largest advantage of the game.
UALR kept the pressure on MTSU with a pair of Gault drives
and dishes to freshman Carolee Dillard,
but Middle Tennessee countered with a 6-0 run. Rowe made a layup, tallied a
pair from the line and Shanice Cason made a layup to cut it to 40-39 with 10:26
left. Clark added a jumper 20 ticks later to increase the UALR advantage.
Neither team scored for the next five minutes.
Lake Leonard for MTSU hit her only triple to tie the game
and a pair of free throws from Rowe gave the one seed its first lead of the
second half with 3:50 remaining in the game. UALR retook the lead on a Gault
jumper and a Ford rebound and outlet to Clark sprinting down the court, but
Middle Tennessee countered with a 9-0 run. Clark made a layup on an offensive
rebound with under a second left to give her 11 points and her first career
As the top seed to not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA
Tournament, should UALR not receive an at-large selection, UALR is guaranteed to
play in the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). Selections for both tournaments will be announced next Monday night (March 18).