Without any doubt, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock women's basketball team responded well to Coach Joe Foley's message.
The Trojans (17-10, 13-3 Sun Belt) were defeated twice in a row by Texas State on Feb. 16 and Arkansas State University on Feb. 23. Foley retooled his starting lineup, sat four of his five first-string players at ASU, and sought to wake up the Trojans before the regular season's final four games.
UALR went 2-0 at the Jack Stephens Center last week as an answer to the losing streak, blowing out Georgia Southern 80-51 on Thursday and Georgia State 82-50 on Saturday.
Thursday's rout was UALR's largest margin of victory of the season. Eighty points were also a high. Both figures were replaced with bigger totals Saturday.
The Trojans put together their finest two offensive performances of the season and, like Foley said he wanted, are "getting hot" at the right time.
So that means Foley feels good about his team before its final two regular-season games on the road, right?
"A coach never feels good this time of year," Foley said. "You want to see your team score. You want to see them playing defense. Until that last game's over, you're not going to give in right now. It's all about getting better."
The Trojans will complete their regular season with a two-game road trip to current No. 10 seed Louisiana-Lafayette (7-20, 5-11) on Thursday and Louisiana-Monroe (9-18, 3-13) -- which has been eliminated from a potential berth in the Sun Belt Tournament -- on Saturday.
The 10-team field for the Sun Belt Tournament is set, but seeds are still to be determined.
The Trojans secured one of the Sun Belt's top three seeds with their victory Saturday. However, Foley and others have spoken plenty this season about wanting one of the tournament's top two seeds, which gives the team a bye to the semifinal round.
Should UALR earn the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, it will need to win one game to advance to the tournament championship game at 11 a.m. March 16 at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
The tournament champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"Everybody's trying to get to the top," said UALR sophomore point guard Tori Lasker, who scored a career-high 28 points in Saturday's victory. "Everybody's trying to play their best right now because it's the end of the season."
UALR holds the tiebreaker against current No. 1 seed Texas-Arlington (22-6, 14-3), which has one game remaining Saturday versus Texas State.Texas-Arlington has won four consecutive games since UALR defeated it for a second time this season in a 62-61 victory Feb. 14 in Arlington, Texas.
Texas-Arlington defeated No. 3 seed Troy 88-65 on Saturday in Arlington, Texas. Troy (20-7, 11-5) could still tie UALR's record. But with a win against either Louisiana-Lafayette or Louisiana-Monroe, UALR will secure a top-two seed in the tournament.
UALR, the 2017-18 Sun Belt Tournament Champions, opened Sun Belt play with victories against Louisiana-Monroe, 63-44, on Jan. 3 and Louisiana-Lafayette, 62-48, on Jan. 5.
UALR head Coach Joe Foley challenged his team after consecutive losses to Texas State and Arkansas State, and the Trojans responded with home victories over Georgia Southern and Georgia State last week.
Sports on 03/04/2019
Print Headline: Trojans respond to Foley's challenge