TROY, Ala. – In this season’s second battle between the best offense and the best defense in the Sun Belt Conference, the offense reversed the script and got the victory.
Troy’s relentless offense combined with a full-court press on defense gave the home team an 86-77 victory over UALR at Trojan Arena on Wednesday night.
UALR (14-11, 9-6 Sun Belt Conference) scored 77 in the game – its highest road total of the season – but it couldn’t keep up with the home side as Troy (11-15, 7-8) had an answer for every UALR burst. The game was close for the first 30 minutes with eight lead changes and 12 ties in that span. After never leading by more than four in the second half, Troy eventually got a three-possession lead with 9:17 to play and held on for the win.
Troy’s Joanna Harden ended the night with 33 points on 9 of 27 shooting including 20 points in the second half. She did plenty of damage from the charity stripe as well, making 15 free throws. Troy entered the game with the top offense in the Sun Belt while UALR had its best defense. The 86 points UALR gave up is nine more than it had in any game all year.
Shanity James had a double-double for UALR, tallying 15 points to lead the team and 13 rebounds. The double-double was her third of the season and first since Jan. 29 against Louisiana.
Three other UALR players reached double figures in scoring with Kiera Clark (14), Taylor Gault (12) and Kaitlyn Pratt (11) all scored more than 10. Freshman Keanna Keys just missed out on that mark with nine points, and Taylor Ford had eight.
The early part of the second half was a track meet as both teams sprinted up and down the court for layups. Troy began the period with seven of the first nine points, but UALR responded immediately with fast-break layups of its own.
With 13 minutes left in the half, though, UALR went cold from the field. James’ layup with 12:51 on the clock tied the game at 55-55, but that would be UALR’s last points for nearly five minutes. Troy went on an 8-0 run in that span that included four points from little-used Kristen Emerson. From there, UALR turned the ball over multiple times on Troy's full-court press defense. UALR finished the night with 18 turnovers.
UALR never got closer than six points after that as Sharde' Collins hit a 3-pointer with 43 seconds to go.
UALR’s defense was showcased early on, as Troy was flummoxed offensively. The team made just one of its first nine shots in the game, and UALR had a 12-5 lead in the first six minutes. From there, though, Troy got in the groove and UALR stalled on offense. Troy went on a 12-0 run that spanned the next five minutes of the game before a Kaitlyn Pratt layup made it 17-14 Troy midway through the half.
The rest of the half was very competitive as Troy held a lead but UALR kept it close. UALR finally re-took the lead briefly at 32-30 before Troy tied it again, but the visitors went back on top for the rest of the half shortly after that. With a two-point lead at 38-36, UALR went into the break with a narrow advantage.
In the game, Taylor Ford moved up to eighth all-time at UALR in made free throws while also moving up to ninth all-time in rebounding. Pratt scored the 100th point of her career early on, and Hannah Fohne grabbed her 500th career rebound.
With their road schedule now behind it, UALR will close out its regular season with three straight games at home. The first of those three is Saturday against Arkansas State with tip set for 4:30 p.m.