PINE BLUFF -- The University of Central Arkansas women's basketball team notched its first victory of the season Tuesday night despite being "out of sync."
Freshman guard Jalisa Outlaw scored nine of her team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Sugar Bears turned back a stern challenge from the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff to walk away with a 74-70 victory at H.O. Clemmons Arena.
Senior forward Briana Trigg added 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists for UCA (1-2), which found a way to hold off the Golden Lions after dropping a pair of contests in Texas last week.
"We're a little out of sync, but I love our effort," said UCA Coach Sandra Rushing, whose team opened the season with back-to-back losses to Power 5 teams Baylor and TCU on the road. "But I've said this all along: I see the light at the end of the tunnel if we can get everybody back and working together. I'm very pleased with this team.
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us. I thought we got a little timid down the stretch, playing not to lose. We needed the challenge, and we met the challenge."
The Golden Lions, coming off a 17-point victory over Arkansas State in their opener, provided that challenge. But UAPB (1-1) put itself in a tough spot early by missing its first eight shots to fall into a 12-3 hole. UAPB trailed by as many as 14 in both the second and fourth quarters, but pulled as close as 68-65 with 2:30 remaining.
The Sugar Bears came up with the clutch plays down the stretch.
"I always say big-time players make big-time shots," UAPB Coach Dawn Brown said. "Down the stretch when we thought we were right there within reach, [UCA] came down with an answer bucket or a big-time rebound. We have to just do a better job as far as understanding how important it's going to be to secure and rebound the basketball late in game.
"We were still right there and just couldn't come up with some of those 50-50 balls. When UCA did, they were able to capitalize."
One of the big reasons the Golden Lions stayed close was the play of guard Kaila Walker. The sophomore finished with a game-high 22 points and 5 rebounds for UAPB, which shot 22 of 53 (41.5%) after getting off to a 2 of 10 (20%) start in the first quarter.
Senior guard Joyce Kennerson had 12 points and 5 assists, while senior forward Trasity Totten ended with 11 points.
UCA made 26 of 60 (43.3%) from the floor and held an overwhelming 47-28 advantage on the boards.
A driving left-handed scoop from Walker with 7:58 left in the second quarter pulled UAPB to within 21-18, but UCA responded with a 9-2 run that saw the Sugar Bears begin to pound the glass on the offensive end.
UCA led 33-27 after a long three-pointer from Walker with less than three minutes to go before halftime, but three consecutive baskets inside from forward Terri Crawford highlighted a 10-2 run over the final 2:54 for the Sugar Bears. A 22-footer from UAPB guard Shicoriya Orr before the halftime horn allowed the Golden Lions to close to 43-32.
UAPB trailed throughout the second half but made several charges. UCA's 13-point lead was whittled to 51-45 midway through the third. The Sugar Bears then held a 64-50 lead at the start of the final period before a 15-4 run by the Golden Lions sliced the lead to 68-65.
UAPB had possession of the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead, but UAPB missed a layup. The Sugar Bears grabbed the rebound, and a pair of free throws from Outlaw created enough separation.
"I thought early we were hitting the boards, but I thought late, fatigue set in on us," Rushing said. "We want to milk the clock when we have the lead, and that's something I'm trying to teach this team. We need to understand court awareness, especially on the road when you have a lead.
"But this was a very good basketball game for us. What you want to do with your team is make sure they know how to win. That's important, and we want to just keep fighting and getting better."
SUN BELT WOMEN
UALR 61, MEMPHIS 52
Brianna Crane scored a team-high 18 points to lead four University of Arkansas at Little Rock players in double figures as the Trojans picked up a nonconference road victory.
Bre'Amber Scott finished with 12 points, and Mayra Caicedo and Teal Battle each had 10 points for UALR (1-1), which outscored Memphis (0-1) 15-7 in the third quarter to surge ahead after trailing 30-29 at halftime.
The Trojans shot 42.9% (24 of 56) for the game compared to 20 of 62 (32.3%) for the Tigers. UALR also held a 42-37 rebounding edge and scored 21 points of 19 turnovers.
Alana Davis had 20 points and Madison Griggs added 11 for Memphis.