Last week's rough start for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock women's basketball team featured back-to-back road losses by 43 and 26 points, while the Trojans combined to score 75 points.
But in Wednesday night's home opener against LSU, the Trojans refused to get dusted.
LSU (2-1) still powered its way to a 65-50 victory over UALR (0-3) at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. But afterward, UALR Coach Joe Foley said his team took a step forward, albeit a small one, against the Tigers.
"LSU I think's a great, quality ballclub, and at times I thought we competed really well, and that's a change from the last two games," Foley said. "I'm a little more pleased with our ballclub today than I was last week, so hopefully we'll keep getting better."Gallery: UALR Women's Basketball vs LSU
Senior guard Kyra Collier led UALR in scoring for the third consecutive game, scoring 16 points -- including 11 in the third quarter -- while grabbing 6 rebounds and playing all 40 minutes.
Her three-point outburst early in the third period kept the Trojans afloat after LSU had taken a 34-19 halftime lead. Collier drilled three shots from beyond the arc in the opening three minutes of the quarter, which helped trim LSU's lead to 36-28.
"I was kind of dialed in. I knew we needed to get some type of spark, get some type of juice going," Collier said. "That's my job on the team is to get people going, get people pumped up and make sure everybody's giving maximum effort."
After starting the same five for the first two games, Foley tweaked the lineup Wednesday. Sophomore forward Krystan Vornes and freshman forward Alayzha Knapp each began on the bench this time, while senior guard Sydney Chastain and freshman forward Nicole Hemphill started the game.
Hemphill tallied 13 points, 6 rebounds and went 7 of 7 from the free-throw line while logging 37 minutes. She repeatedly scrapped for offensive boards and dove for loose balls on the floor.
"She came in and fought the whole time, so I'm real proud of her," Collier said of her teammate. "She was everywhere. She brought a lot of juice. It was different seeing Nicole like that. She usually plays hard, but I just saw a different type of fire in her today."
Outside of the play of Collier and Hemphill, it was a struggle for UALR offensively, especially in the first half. Fourteen of the team's 19 turnovers came in the first two quarters, and the Trojans shot 27%.
LSU was aggressive on the defensive end with sharp man defense and a healthy dose of a full-court press.
Hemphill gave UALR a brief lift midway through the second quarter when she corralled an offensive rebound before coming back with a lay-in while taking contact. She made the free-throw attempt to complete a three-point play, and the Trojans trailed 23-16 with 5:22 left before the break.
But LSU closed the half on an 11-3 run, as the Tigers' defense forced six turnovers. LSU finished with 26 points off of UALR's turnovers.
"It got away from us there [late in the second quarter]," Foley said. "We were moving along pretty well."
Collier scored 11 of UALR's 14 points in the third quarter while LSU built a 50-33 advantage through 30 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, junior guard Tori Lasker, who finished with eight points, hit a pair of three-pointers. The Trojans trailed by 22 with 3:45 to play, but they closed the game on a 9-2 run, bolstered by seven made free throws, to make it respectable.
After two games in which three-pointers were nearly nonexistent -- UALR entered Wednesday 2 of 28 -- the Trojans hit 5 of 11 from beyond the arc.
It was another small sign of progress.
"Last week we took some [big] losses, so it gives us a little bit of confidence knowing that we just are getting better. We got beat by 15 today," Collier said. "I'm kind of proud of us tonight, honestly. I'm proud of us."
Khayla Pointer paced LSU with 22 points and six assists. Faustine Aifuwa chipped in 12 points and had a team-high seven rebounds.
SE MISSOURI STATE 79, ARKANSAS STATE 67
Forward Peyton Martin scored a team-high 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the floor Wednesday to lead Arkansas State University (1-2) in a loss to South-east Missouri State (3-0) at First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro.
The Red Wolves never led. Roshala Scott got an offensive rebound off a missed three-pointer and scored on a put-back to give the Redhawks a 15-4 lead with 1:59 left in the first quarter. The lead grew to 20-4 with 26 seconds left in the quarter on a layup by Sophie Bussard, but a jumper by Martin with three seconds left cut the lead to 20-6. That basket ended a 4:52 scoring drought for Arkansas State.
Southeast Missouri State took its largest lead when a three-pointer by Carrie Shephard made it 40-21 with 1:12 left in the first half, but Arkansas State went on an 8-0 run to end the half, cutting the lead to 40-29. The Red Wolves trailed by eight points on three occasions in the third quarter, but could get no closer.
Jireh Washington had 17 points and Payton Tennison added 12 for Arkansas State, which shot 38% (26 of 73) from the floor and 71% (10 of 14) from the free-throw line.
Tesia Thompson scored a game-high 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor for Southeast Missouri State, while Jessie Harshberger went 9 of 11 from the floor — including 3 three-pointers — to add 21 points. Shephard finished with 19.
LSU’s Faustine Aifuwa (left) blocks a shot by UALR’s Nicole Hemphill during the Tigers’ victory over the Trojans on Wednesday night at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. More photos are available at arkansasonline.com/1114ualrwbb.
UALR’s Kyra Collier (23) drives to the basket against LSU’s Jailin Cherry (1) during the third quarter of the Trojans’ 65-50 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. Collier led the Trojans with 16 points. More photos are available at arkansasonline.com/1114ualrwbb.
Sports on 11/14/2019
Print Headline: Taking baby steps