The Opening Tip
UALR (24-8) begins its play in its sixth-consecutive trip to a postseason tournament Friday (March 22) when it travels to Stockton, Calif. to take on Pacific. Game time is set for 9 p.m.
Unable to attend? There are multiple ways you can follow all the action. If you want to listen to audio, you can hear Ray Tucker (Play-by-Play) on either terrestrial radio at 920 AM or via the world wide web by clicking here. You can watch the Big West.TV stream (FREE) by clicking here. Lastly, you can follow live stats by clicking here.
• UALR (24-8) plays in the postseason for the sixth-straight season when it takes on Pacific (25-7) Friday night (March 22) at 9 p.m.
• The Trojans are 0-2 in the Postseason WNIT. They lost at Southern Miss (57-67) in 2007-08 while they fell to Murray State (67-65) in 2008-09.
• Freshman Shanity James is averaging 12.6 and 10.4 rebounds per game in the last five contests. She averaged 4.5 points and 6.5 boards over the previous eight contests.
• Sophomore Ka'Nesheia Cobbins has 10 steals in the last three games played, six of which have led to fastbreakbaskets.
• With a win in the Big West semifinals, Pacific clinched the most wins (25) in a season in program history.
Pacific (25-7) finished the 2012-13 regular season as Big West champions but came up short in the Conference Tournament Finals to Cal Poly, 62-49.
With seven losses on the year, three have come to Cal Poly. The Tigers came up short by 13 points to the Mustangs last Saturday (March 16). The Mustangs held Pacific to only 32.8 percent (20-61) shooting from the field, including 4-17 (23.5 percent) from beyond the arc. Gena Johnson scored a team-high 14 points on only 6-for-15 shooting from the field. Kendall Rodriguez was held to 10 points and five boards.
The Tigers were out-boarded 48-26 in the game.
Both UALR and Pacific enter the game third in their respective conferences in rebounding, but the Trojans have the chance to exploit its strength to go to the glass. The Trojans are averaging a rebounding margin of +3.8 while the Tigers grab are only +0.7 boards per game.
The shooting percentage story will also be similar to the storyline for both of UALR’s games against Arkansas State. Pacific shoots 40.9 percent (792-1937), but like the Red Wolves, the Tigers let teams shoot a high percentage (656-1773, 37.0 percent). UALR is 45th in the nation with a 42.5 percent shooting percentage while it is sixth in defense, allowing teams to only shoot 33.3 percent.
Individually, Pacific comes at opponents with balanced scoring as five players average 8.8 points per game or more. Kendall Rodriguez leads the team with 12.4 points per game. Kendall Kenyon adds 10.6 points and 9.6 rebounds.
Pacific has the 4th-highest RPI (47) among teams in the WNIT.
A Little James Goes A Long Way
Shanity James has provided great rebounding and a little scoring for the second half of the season, but the last five games have been on another level for the freshman.
After James recorded her first double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds against Florida Atlantic (Jan. 31), James failed to reach double-digit scoring in the next eight games and only averaged 4.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
In the last five contests, James is averaging 12.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, including a pair of double-doubles. She scored 11 points and grabbed a career-best 15 boards in UALR’s win over Louisiana (Feb. 28).
UALR is 3-0 when James records a double-double.
Warmer Weather Ratchets up the Defense
Apparently, UALR loves when the weather gets warmer.
In the last four seasons, the Trojans are 31-21 in the months of November and December, giving up an average of 59.5 points per game. Other than a 10-2 record in 2012-13, UALR has never had less than five losses for the opening months of the season. The Trojans were 5-9 in 2011-12, 7-5 in 2010-11 and 9-5 in 2009-10.
But as weather warms up in the spring months, the wins come rolling in while the defensive intensity picks up. UALR is 38-8 the past four seasons in the months of February and March, giving up only 52.6 points per game. The Trojans are 9-1 this season and were 9-2 in 2011-12, 9-3 in 2010-11 and 11-2 in 2009-10.
Among the Elite
With UALR’s 60-43 win at Florida Atlantic Feb. 23, the Trojans are among the best teams in the country with its 20th win overall and 12th SBC victory.
Only 18 teams in NCAA Division I women’s basketball have 20 wins or more each of the past seven seasons.
UALR is also one of 11 teams (Chattanooga, UCONN, Gonzaga, Green Bay, Illinois State, James Madison, Marist, Middle Tennessee, Sacred Heart and Stanford) to have 12 conference wins every season since 2006-07.
One of the staples of UALR is its defense. The Trojans are one of only four teams in the nation (Marist, UCONN and Rutgers) to have ranked in the top 50 in scoring defense since 2005-06.
While UALR has not played Pacific, the Trojans are 3-0 against teams from the Golden State. They beat St. Mary’s (72-60) and Loyola Marymount (54-33) at home in 2010-11 while they beat Cal State Bakersfield in 2007-08 (69-54) in Los Angeles.
Season Records Watch
Sophomore Taylor Gault is currently seventh and eighth with 444 points and 167 field goals respectively, trailing assistant coach Alicia Cash in both categories. Junior Taylor Ford has 142 assists on the year, just four behind assistant coach Asriel Rolfe and just nine away from the single-season record. Finally, junior Hannah Fohne and Gault are second and fifth in blocks with 40 and 35, respectively. Fohne is just eight shy of season leader Renee Renz’s 48 blocks in 2005-06. Gault is just two blocks shy of Nikya Hughes (2007-08) and Adrian Brown (1982-83).
Career Records Watch
A trio of players have their eyes on the UALR career record book. Senior Janette Merriex is third with 162 career threes, 50 behind second-place Jocelyn Love (2003-07). Junior Taylor Ford is fifth with 293 assists, 19 behind Chastity Reed (2007-11). Finally, sophomore Taylor Gault is already 10th with 958 points, 25 behind ninth-place B.J. Higginbotham (1978-81). The Trojans kept numerous streaks alive in the victory. UALR now has won 11-straight overall and its 10th consecutive in conference play. UALR also won its 83rd-straight game, including the last six to end the regular season, when it holds the opponents to 50 points or less.
Trojans Rewind: Middle Tennessee
UALR, who made the championship game for the 5th-straight year, fell to Middle Tennessee 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 rebounds.
Sophomore Taylor 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.
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If UALR wins its first round game against Pacific, the Trojans travel to the Evergreen State to take on either Washington (20-11) or Eastern Washington (19-12). The contest will either be played Sunday (March 24) or Monday (March 25).