Joe Foley raised concern about Troy's full-court press on Wednesday.
The day before the second meeting between two of the Sun Belt Conference's top three teams, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's women's basketball coach spoke hopefully. The last time UALR played Troy, the pressure led to UALR's only conference loss of the season on Jan. 10.
One month later, after two consecutive weeks of rehearsing how to disable Troy's full-court press, UALR's 76-72 victory Thursday was sweet even if it did not look perfect at times.
"You've just got to fight through it sometimes," Foley said. "We did a good job of actually just winning. I didn't think it was pretty. I didn't think either team played pretty. But you've got two great teams out there just battling their hearts out."
UALR (13-8, 9-1 Sun Belt Conference) was able to avenge a 71-66 loss at Trojan Arena in January with its seventh consecutive victory Thursday at the Jack Stephens Center. UALR's streak is the longest active in the Sun Belt.
Prior to Thursday, Foley said Troy (16-5, 7-3) had the tools to be the most threatening team in the conference.
Troy had the conference's leading scoring offense (82.5 points per game) and was the nation's No. 1 rebounding team (51.1) before Thursday's rematch.
Troy typically relies on its depth and its ability to score on second-chance points. Troy used 12 players Thursday to UALR's 8 and scored 26 second-chance points off 21 total offensive rebounds.
While UALR didn't exactly bottle up Troy's strengths, it did enough to minimize their effectiveness.
"I said if they got 25 [offensive rebounds] like they did last time, we'd probably get beat," Foley said. "They got 21 and we held on. I guess I'm a pretty good predictor."
Troy held a 17-14 lead after the first quarter and was ahead 31-27 at halftime.
UALR closed the second quarter on a 6-0 run spanning 1:37. Sophomore guard Terrion Moore made three consecutive layups, shrinking the gap for UALR after a first half that was not easy, but UALR lingered.
Sophomore guard Tori Lasker sank two free throws with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter to give UALR a 39-38 lead. The second free throw gave UALR its first lead since it was ahead 5-4 with more than seven minutes remaining in the first quarter.
UALR freshman forward Krystan Vornes entered for three minutes in the third quarter and provided seven quick points to energize the team's lead-taking burst.
UALR won the third quarter 21-15 and carried a 48-46 lead into the fourth quarter, where Troy's press resurfaced and the home team relied on Lasker for decisive buckets.
"Tori's just big," said junior guard Kyra Collier, who scored 15 points. "She's got confidence in herself. We put confidence in each other, big time. She hit some big threes for us and came back and hit some free throws. ... We're just rolling."
Lasker, who went 2 for 4 on three-pointers in the second half and finished with 14 points, added a mid-range jumper with 2:43 left in the fourth to push UALR's lead to 64-59.
Collier then scored five unanswered points on two jumpers and a free throw. UALR's lead swelled to 70-59 after senior forward Ronjanae DeGray, who scored a team-high 19, sank a free throw with 54 seconds remaining.
Troy's vaunted full-court press then reappeared.
"We responded pretty well [to the press] through the whole game until the end," Collier said. "We got a little scrambled, being young. But I think we kind of pulled it out."
Troy unleashed a 13-6 run in the final minute and cut UALR's lead to 72-70 with 20.2 seconds remaining after junior guard Tyra Johnson's three-pointer. Lasker and Collier maintained UALR's lead by going 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in the final 20 seconds.
UALR guard Kyra Collier (middle) tries to handle the ball between two Troy defenders Thursday during a 76-72 victory at the Jack Stephens Center. Collier finished with 15 points and was 1 of 4 UALR players to score 10 or more.
UALR sophomore guard Terrion Moore (left) drives to the basket ahead of Troy junior forward Amber Rivers during Thursday night’s game at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
Sports on 02/08/2019
Print Headline: Ironing out the press: UALR downs Troy, runs streak to 7 in a row