GM 4 >> UALR (1-2) vs. Memphis (3-1)
Friday, Nov. 21 • 7 p.m. (CST)
Little Rock, Ark. • Jack Stephens Center
Live Stats/Video: UALRTrojans.com
Radio: Phil Elson (PxP) on 920 AM
LITTLE ROCK – After two difficult losses on the road, the UALR women’s basketball team will look for some home cooking when Memphis comes to the Jack Stephens Center on Friday at 7 p.m. Trojans fans can follow along with live stats and video at UALRTrojans.com or listen to the game on local radio on 920 AM.
· UALR lost its second straight game on Tuesday when Southern Miss got 41 points from Tamara Jones and shot 22 of 22 from the free throw line while holding the Trojans to just 60 points.
· Kiera Clark (12), Taylor Gault (14) and Shanity James (10) all scored double-digit points, but it was not enough for the UALR offense.
· Shanity James has scored in double figures for nine consecutive games. Taylor Ford leads the Sun Belt with 7.0 assists per game.
· UALR and Memphis have met eight times in their history, and the Tigers hold a 7-1 advantage. However, the Trojans got their first win in the series last year on the Tigers’ home court.
· Sophomore Carolee Dillard may not be playing for the Trojans on Friday as she may still be returning to Little Rock with the UALR volleyball team from the Sun Belt Tournament.
· Coach Joe Foley is two victories away from his 200th win at UALR.
ABOUT THE TROJANS
Road trips have not been kind to the Trojans so far this season, as UALR has dropped its first two contests away from home. On Tuesday at Southern Miss, the Trojans and Golden Eagles were knotted up at 24-24 in the first half, but Southern Miss took over from there. UALR got as close as five points with 10 minutes to go, and that was when the Eagles took over again to finish off the game. Through three games, UALR is led on offense by Taylor Gault’s 16 points per game, led in rebounding by Taylor Ford and Kiera Clark’s 6.7 per game, and led in assists by Ford’s 7 per game.
The Trojans are riding a huge wave of success over the last decade, making the postseason for the last six seasons including three NCAA Tournament berths and three WNIT trips. With a roster that returns all five starters from 2012-13, the Trojans are favored by the league’s coaches to win the conference this season.
· The Tigers, based in nearby Memphis, Tenn., hold a 3-1 record so far this season thanks to victories against East Tennessee State, Wright State and Jackson State. Memphis’ one loss came at home to Samford.
· Last season’s Tigers team was slightly above average, going 17-15 with an 8-8 record in Conference USA games. Memphis joined the American Athletic Conference in the off-season.
· So far this year, Memphis guard Ariel Hearn is the team’s top scorer with 18.8 points per game. She is also averaging 3.8 rebounds per game and leads the Tigers with 10 steals. Asianna Fuqua-Bey is the only other Tigers player averaging double-digit scoring with 10.0 points per game.
· Memphis has multiple rebounders hovering above seven boards per game. Fuqua-Bey is averaging 7.8 rebounds per game while Pa’Sonna Hope has 9.0 and Jasbriell Swain has 9.5.
· Coach Melissa McFerrin is in her sixth year with the Tigers and holds a 148-139 career record.
THE SERIES AGAINST MEMPHIS
UALR and Memphis have played each other eight times since they first met in 1978 with the Tigers claiming seven of those eight tilts. The Trojans won the most recent in the series last year at Memphis, defeating the Tigers 56-44 thanks to a stifling defense that held Memphis to just 27 percent shooting and 7.7 percent shooting from downtown. Before last year, though, Memphis won against UALR in 1978, 1979, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2010 and 2011.
A WIN AGAINST MEMPHIS WOULD…
…extend the Trojans’ winning streak in the series to two games…improve UALR to 2-7 all-time against the Tigers…Be the Trojans’ first victory over Memphis in Little Rock all-time…move Joe Foley one win away from 200 at UALR…move UALR’s home winning streak to eight games.
UALR VS. THE AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
The Trojans historically have rarely played teams who are current members of the American Athletic Conference. Of the 10 teams in that league, UALR has only faced three. The Trojans have a 1-7 record all-time against Memphis and are 1-1 against South Florida and SMU for a combined record against the AAC of 3-9. The Trojans have never faced UCF, Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, Louisville, Rutgers or Temple.
As a member of the UALR volleyball and women’s basketball teams, sophomore Carolee Dillard has been incredibly busy over the last few weeks as the seasons overlap. Dillard has been traveling to make games for both teams when possible, and she may be missing the basketball game on Friday on her way back from the Sun Belt Volleyball Tournament. She made her first two career 3-pointers at Southern Miss on Tuesday and leads UALR with three blocks on the year. For volleyball, Dillard led the Sun Belt in solo blocks. Now that the volleyball season has ended, she will return to the basketball team full time.
HOME SWEET HOME
UALR has lost both its road games this season, but the Trojans are much better at home. Currently on a seven-game winning streak at the Jack Stephens Center, UALR has not lost at home since January 12. Since the Jack Stephens Center opened for the start of the 2005-06 season, the Trojans are an incredible 101-20 in their home building, good for a winning percentage of .835. UALR is also 58-11 in conference games at the JSC, making them an even-better .841 in league games. The Trojans’ overall winning percentage at the Jack Stephens Center puts that building just outside the top 10 toughest places to play in the country.
NO SHOT AT LONG SHOTS
The Trojans pride themselves on defense, and so far this year their perimeter defense is tops in the Sun Belt. UALR has allowed opponents to shoot just 26.2 percent from 3-point range, the best mark in the league by a full percent. Of the 42 deep shots attempted by opponents, only 11 have gone in. That number is a full six made baskets lower than Louisiana, who is second in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage defense (27.4 percent, 17 of 62).
Senior Taylor Ford has dished out 21 assists in the season’s first three games, good for 7.0 assists per game. That average is good for tops in the Sun Belt Conference so far, and she has two more assists overall than her closest competition. Ford dished out 149 assists in 2012-13, two shy of the school record set by Shanika Butler in 2009-10, and she is currently fourth all-time at UALR with 321 assists and eighth all-time with 3.2 per game. Junior Kiera Clark is also in the top 10 in the conference in assists category, tied for ninth with 3.3 assists per game.
LOGGING BIG MINUTES
Senior Taylor Ford and junior Kiera Clark are critical to the Trojans’ success this year, and they have been on the court plenty to prove it. Ford tops the Sun Belt Conference with her 37 minutes per game, playing exactly 37 minutes in each contest this year. Clark, meanwhile, is averaging 35.7 minutes per game. That number is good for the second-best average in the Sun Belt. Clark played all 20 minutes in the first half Tuesday at Southern Miss and did not leave the game until a brief break eight minutes into the second half.
MAKING HER MINUTES COUNT
Junior Taylor Gault did not start on Tuesday for the first time this season, and she did not see any game action until five minutes were left in the first half. Still, she continues to be the Trojans’ leading scorer thanks to 14 points in only 16 minutes against the Golden Eagles. Only twice in her career did Gault average more points per minute than she did Tuesday.
Sophomore Shanity James is on a scoring roll right now, as she has recorded double figures in scoring in her last nine games. She had six consecutive games with 10 or more points at the end of last season, and she has scored 12, 13 and 10 points in this season’s games. Her high total during this streak is 19 at Pacific in the WNIT in March. Junior Taylor Gault has a similar streak, recording double digits in 10 of her last 11 games. The lone game missing from that run was the regular-season finale last year against Arkansas State where she only played five minutes.
HOME SWEET HOME
Freshman Keanna Keys felt right at home on Tuesday night, as her home town of Sumrall, Miss., is just 20 miles away from Hattiesburg. She got the start against Southern Miss, grabbing a career-best three rebounds and playing 16 minutes.
UALR had four players – all starters – foul out at Missouri State on Wednesday night. In Joe Foley’s entire 11-year career at UALR, he had never seen four of his players foul out in a single game. Only twice in all of last year did UALR have more than one player foul out. The team as a whole committed 29 fouls against the Lady Bears, and the 2012-13 single-game season-high for fouls was 25 at ULM. The Trojans have not had more than 29 fouls in a game since November 2002 when it committed 33 against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Senior Taylor Ford will played in her 100th career game on Wednesday night, reaching that mark after playing in every game of her career. If the Trojans play at least two games in the Sun Belt Tournament and Ford does not miss a game this season, she will tie Asriel Rolfe’s UALR record for games played in a career at 128. With three post-season games, Ford could hold the record all on her own when her time at UALR comes to an end.
The Trojans, six-time defending Sun Belt West Division champions, find themselves in a new-look conference this season with the departure of Middle Tennessee, North Texas, FIU and FAU and the arrival of Georgia State, Texas State and UT Arlington. The Sun Belt is abandoning the division format for this season with all 10 teams in one grouping. Each team will play every other team in the conference twice, once home and once away. The top eight teams will make the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in New Orleans in early March. Next season, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will join the league while Western Kentucky will depart.
The Trojans have large expectations on their backs this season, as the Sun Belt Conference coaches selected UALR to win the league in their annual preseason poll. The Trojans got six out of 10 first-place votes and finished with 95 total points. Western Kentucky was second in the voting with 92 points and four first-place votes. On an individual level, senior Taylor Ford and junior Taylor Gault were picked as All-Sun Belt First Team members. Ford was on the Second Team last year, and Gault was an All-Sun Belt First Team selection as a freshman, the same season she won the league’s Freshman of the Year Award.
The Trojans, always known for stifling defense, shattered the UALR single-season record for blocks in 2012-13. All told, the Trojans blocked 163 shots, 49 more than the previous record of 114 set in 2011-13. UALR had never blocked more than 100 shots in a season before 2006-07. The Trojans had three blocks in their season opener against Sam Houston State.
Junior Taylor Gault never lacked for points at UALR, as her first two seasons have seen two of the top 10 scoring performances in school history. She put up 527 points her freshman year, good for the fourth-best total at UALR. As a sophomore, her 459 points put her seventh in a single season. Career-wise, Gault’s 1,034 points have her sitting in ninth place all time, and she will move up to eighth with 23 more points. At her current pace, she could move up to fourth or higher by the end of her junior year. Her 173 made field goals in 2012-13 was also the seventh-best in a year at UALR, and she tied for eighth on the career 3-pointer list with 78 made.
CAREER NUMBERS WATCH
Against Southern Miss:
· Taylor Ford played in her 100th career game.
· Taylor Gault tied Nikya Hughes for eighth all-time at UALR with her 78th made 3-pointer.
· Shanity James got her 200th career rebound.
· Taylor Ford will move into third all-time at UALR with 42 more assists.
· Taylor Gault will move into sole possession of eighth all-time at UALR with one more 3-pointer and eighth all-time with 37 more points. She is also two assists away from 100.
· Kiera Clark is nine baskets shy of 200 in her career.
· Hannah Fohne will move into sole possession of the team’s all-time block total with 14 more.
UALR has its longest break of the season to date, taking eight days off before returning to action at Oral Roberts on Nov. 30. The Trojans and Golden Eagles will tip off at 3 p.m.