ATLANTA – The first ever meeting between UALR and Georgia State was a memorable one, but it’s one the Trojans might like to forget.
Leading by as many as 11 midway through the second half, UALR (8-8, 3-3 Sun Belt Conference) went cold and GSU (7-10, 3-2) mounted a comeback, eventually claiming a 61-59 victory at the GSU Sports Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The Trojans were ahead 47-36 early in the half, but the Panthers did not quit, slowly cutting away at the UALR advantage. With the Trojans up seven with four minutes remaining, the Panthers scored the next seven points to tie the game.
UALR had possession with a chance to re-take the lead, but a shot-clock violation led to another GSU layup and a 59-57 lead. Taylor Ford followed with two free throws for the Trojans to tie it at 59-59 with 11 seconds left, setting up the decisive possession.
The Panthers had the ball across half court and tried an inside pass to a post player. Hannah Fohne had her guarded well and tipped the ball up. It bounced off the bottom of the backboard, off more hands, and, unluckily for the Trojans, right into the hands of GSU’s Gaby Moss. Moss, with no one on her, made an easy layup with 2.4 seconds left.
The Trojans had one last gasp attempt to win, but Ford could not get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.
Taylor Gault scored 21 points including 11 in the second half, but her counterpart in Alisha Andrews had 22 of her own to counteract Gault’s offense. Kiera Clark also scored 18 points – one shy of a season high – and added 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the year. Gault had three blocks on the afternoon, moving up to fifth all-time at UALR in that category.
In just the Panthers’ second home game in the last seven weeks, the Atlanta crowd helped GSU make its late push for a victory that seemed improbable midway through the second half
The period began as promising as the first did for UALR as the team went on a large run to open up a double-digit lead. With the game tied at 34-34, the Trojans scored 13 of the next 15 points. On one sequence, Gault hit a jumper, blocked a 3-point attempt on the other end and then drained a 3-pointer in transition for herself.
But just like in the first half, the Panthers did not go away, bringing the Trojans’ lead back down to five points with a 3-pointer by Andrews with eight minutes to go, and the lead was down to four just a moment later. UALR briefly had the lead back to seven, but the Panthers were scored the next five to make it a 57-55 game with two minutes left
Two free throws tied the game at 57-57, and the Georgia State comeback was complete. That set up an intense final two minutes, complete with two consecutive clock-draining possessions by the Trojans before GSU hit the go-ahead layup, Ford re-tied it with free throws and Moss found the ball in her hands for a layup on the Panthers’ final possession.
After Gault and Clark, James was the Trojans’ next-highest scorer with 8 points, though she missed seven free throws. Ford had six points, Kaitlyn Pratt had four and Hannah Fohne added two. James led UALR with six assists while Clark had three steals.
The game began in sloppy fashion with both teams turning the ball over four times in the opening four minutes. Georgia State got two fast-break layups in that span to take an early 6-2 lead, but the Trojans took over that.
Gault got hot from the floor, making three consecutive jumpers. Clark had two more baskets, and a Ford 3-pointer and Pratt layup put UALR ahead 18-10. After the next media timeout, Gault refused to cool off when she knocked down another jumper to make it an 18-4 Trojans run. Fohne free throws and another Pratt lay-in extended the UALR run to 22-4, and the team had also scored 11 consecutive points. When the streak ended, the Trojans held a 24-12 lead.
The Panthers did not go away, though, scoring 12 of the next 16 points to get the game back within four points. UALR missed four consecutive free throws at one point, opening the door for GSU to slowly cut the lead. UALR went into the break ahead 32-28 but could have been up more as it missed eight free throws in the half. Both teams shot above 50 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
After a week on the road, the Trojans now return home to face Texas State on Wednesday. The game is set for a 7 p.m. tip at the Jack Stephens Center.