HOT SPRINGS An offensive drought that lasted for most of the second half brought the UALR women's run of NCAA Tournament appearances to a halt Monday.
The Trojans led Middle Tennessee State by seven points with 10 minutes remaining in Monday's Sun Belt Conference Tournament final at Summit Arena, but they went almost seven minutes without scoring and put up eight points the rest of the game in a 53-48 loss to the top-seeded Blue Raiders.
UALR (24-8), which beat Middle Tennessee in last year's Sun Belt final, led 40-33 with 10:07 left, but didn't score again until Taylor Gault's jumper with 3:10 left that tied the game at 44 points.
Kiera Clark's layup in transition gave the Trojans a 46-44 lead, but they didn't score again until Clark's put-back with 15.5 seconds left, and that came after MTSU scored eight consecutive points.
Middle Tennessee, which is exiting the Sun Belt for Conference USA this summer, won its fifth Sun Belt title under Coach Rick Insell and beat UALR in the finals for the third time.
Freshman Shanity James led UALR with 14 points, while Clark had 11 points and 17 rebounds. Gault had 13 points and was named to the all-tournament team.
James was also named to the all-tournament team and Middle Tennessee's Kortni Jones, who had 15 points Sunday, was named the Most Outstanding Player. Ebony Rowe had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Middle Tennessee (25-7), which earned the Sun Belt's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
UALR will now await their seed in the WNIT, which they earned the automatic bid into by way of their SBC West Division title. MTSU won the East Division crown.
Read more about this game in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.