LITTLE ROCK – With foul trouble most of the night and a young roster fighting to establish itself, the UALR women’s basketball got a statement victory at the Jack Stephens Center on Friday night.
It took five extra minutes, but the Trojans came from behind to force overtime and eventually held on to a 68-63 victory over Memphis thanks in part two clutch plays from Taylor Gault.
With Memphis (3-2) in possession down one with 10 seconds left, Gault drew an offensive foul to give the Trojans (2-2) the ball back. She drove the ball up the court next, taking a flagrant foul from the Tigers and making both free throws to cushion the narrow lead. Sophomore Shanity James added two more free throws to seal the game.
In a game that featured 13 lead changes and 16 tied scores, Gault finished with 19 points off the bench while James added 18 in a career-high 41 minutes and freshman Kaitlyn Pratt had the best game of her young career with 12 points in 26 minutes. James has now scored double figures in the last nine games while Gault has reached that mark in 11 of her last 12.
The Trojans lost Pratt and senior Taylor Ford to fouls late in the second half, and UALR ended the night with three other players – Gault included – with four fouls and one more with three. The game might not have even made it to overtime if the Tigers hit their free throws, but they missed 14 throughout the night while UALR made them down the stretch.
In overtime, James – who entered the night shooting just 41.2 percent from the charity stripe – drained five free throws while Gault made her two with five seconds to go. Before that, UALR had a 64-63 lead and possession with 18 seconds left. James turned it over, giving the Tigers a chance to win the game. But that’s when Ariel Hearn committed the offensive foul on Gault that, based on the rest of the evening, most fans thought would go against the Trojans and foul Gault out of the game.
The Trojans finished with 30 personal fouls to Memphis’ 20.
Saturday night was the got their first overtime win since March 2012 and just the Trojans’ second ever against Memphis. UALR has now won eight consecutive contests at the Jack Stephens Center, and coach Joe Foley is just one win away from 200 in his UALR tenure.
Things appeared to be going against UALR for much of the second half. It started in a similar fashion to the first, with the Trojans committing six fouls while Memphis only took two. UALR started the period with a three-point play by James, but Memphis went on a small run after that. With a 43-38 Memphis lead just after the second media timeout, Clark re-entered the game with four fouls to try to bring some life to the Trojans’ offense.
Instead, that life was injected by Gault. The junior entered the game tied for eighth all-time at UALR with 78 made 3-pointers, but she added three more in just over five minutes to take sole possession of eighth place and bring the Trojans back within one point. A Ford layup and free throw tied the game at 47-47 with 7:28 to go.
The Tigers, though, scored the next six points to quiet the Jack Stephens Center crowd with 5:46 left. They were reignited on consecutive layups by James and Pratt to bring the Trojans within two, and those two made the next UALR baskets as well to tie the game at 55-55. A free throw from each team kept the game tied at 56-56 with under a minute to go.
That set up a frantic end to the second half. The Trojans forced a bad Memphis shot with 30 seconds left and freshman Sharde' Collins got the rebound, but the Tigers’ pressure caused her to turn the ball over while attempting to pass it to Kiera Clark at midcourt.
With the ball and only 19.7 seconds left, the Tigers turned the ball over themselves down low with 10 seconds left. Pratt brought the ball up court and tried a bounce pass to a teammate in the paint, but that wound up in the Tigers’ hands. They were unable to get off one last attempt as the buzzer sounded to send the contest to overtime.
The foul trouble began very early for the Trojans as Ford picked up her third foul just five minutes into the game, bringing freshmen into prominent first-half roles and causing Ford to sit for the rest of the half. The Trojans committed nine fouls on the night before the Tigers were whistled for their second.
Pratt, Collins and Di'Mond Jackson all played career highs in minutes in the game. Jackson scored her first career points in the half and forced a Memphis player into traveling. Pratt had four points in the first half and so did classmate Keanna Keys.
James and Clark helped keep the game close as well, sinking two baskets apiece. Memphis had a narrow lead of 18-16 at the third media timeout, and the Trojans had not yet taken a free throw.
UALR finally did get to the line soon after in the half, with Gault hitting four free throws and Pratt adding two. Gault dove into the UALR bench to force a Memphis turnover, and momentum seemed to be with the Trojans heading into the final five minutes of the period with a 24-22 lead and an 8-2 run.
That’s when 3-pointers started falling for the Trojans. Though they began 0-2 from beyond the arc, Clark and Collins put home back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a 30-24 UALR advantage. The Trojans went into halftime ahead 30-28.
UALR has a whole week off before its next contest, as the Trojans don’t play another game until Nov. 30. UALR will travel to Tulsa, Okla., for a game against Oral Roberts at 3 p.m.
· Taylor Gault moved into sole possession of eighth all-time at UALR her three 3-pointers.
· Joe Foley won his 199th game at UALR.