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The University of Arkansas at Little Rock women's basketball team looked capable of knocking off a Sun Belt Conference leader at times Thursday night.

UALR had a six-point lead after the opening quarter, then later dug its way out of a 19-point third-quarter deficit to pull within nine heading into the fourth.

But similar to their first meeting two weeks ago, Troy proved too much to handle for UALR, as the home Trojans were dealt a 70-54 defeat by the visiting Trojans at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.

Troy (24-4, 15-2 Sun Belt), which is tied for first in the Sun Belt with Coastal Carolina, shot 51.9% from the floor, hit 6 of 11 from beyond the arc, scored 34 points in the paint and received 35 points from its bench. That included a team-high 15 points from forward Amber Rivers and a double-double from forward Japonica James, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

"Against that bunch -- as aggressive as they play, hard as they play -- you got to match [them] effort for effort," UALR Coach Joe Foley said. "They're a good basketball team. They work very hard, they play hard, they get to the rim, they get fouled. That's the reason they're the best team in the conference."

UALR officials honored Foley before tipoff Thursday with a ceremony for reaching 800 career wins less than two weeks ago. Foley looked up and watched a video board that displayed pre-recorded messages from the likes of UConn Coach Geno Auriemma, University of Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors, Texas A&M Coach Gary Blair, Texas Coach Karen Aston and Texas Tech men's Coach Chris Beard, who coached one season at UALR.

"Arguably the best coach that's ever coached in the state of Arkansas," said Blair, who coached the Razorback women from 1993-2003 and is close friends with Foley.

After that, Foley watched his Trojans (11-17, 9-8) limp through another difficult night offensively, shooting 35.5% from the field. After its hot start, UALR shot 31.8% over the last three quarters, as the Trojans suffered their sixth loss in the past seven games.

"If we hit shots, different game," Foley said. "We got wide-open looks, wide-open looks, wide-open looks and [couldn't] get one to go down."

Despite the loss, UALR remains in a tie for fourth place in the Sun Belt standings with Louisiana-Lafayette (16-12, 9-8), which lost at home Thursday night to Texas-Arlington.

UALR hosts South Alabama (13-16, 8-9) in the regular-season finale Saturday at 2 p.m. in Little Rock. A fourth-place finish would guarantee home-court advantage in the first two rounds of next week's Sun Belt Tournament.

Junior forward Teal Battle led UALR with 15 points, and freshman forward Alayzha Knapp added 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 8 rebounds off the bench. But senior guard Kyra Collier, the team's leading scorer, was held in check, finishing with 8 points on 3-of-14 shooting while also posting 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals.

"Kyra's struggling," Foley said. "She's had a tough time with shooting the ball."

UALR grabbed control early and took an 18-12 lead after the opening quarter, a reversal of the 18-12 deficit it had against Troy after 10 minutes in the teams' Feb. 20 meeting in Troy, Ala. -- a 77-59 UALR loss.

The hot start chilled quickly in the second quarter, and there was no answer on the defensive end for Troy, which out-scored the home team 25-9 to take a 37-27 halftime lead.

Troy made 10 of 15 field goals in the second quarter, including a pair of three-pointers. UALR hit just 4 of 14 shots.

After senior guard Sydney Chastain buried her second three with 4:22 left before the half, which gave UALR a 25-23 lead, Troy closed on a 14-2 run.

"We just kind of lost our heads a little bit," Battle said.

Troy's lead climbed to 19 midway through the third quarter once guard Kayla Robinson scored inside, making it 50-31. Robinson later hit a short jumper to keep the lead at 19 with 4:06 left in the quarter.

UALR made it a manageable game by the end of the quarter thanks to a 10-0 run, bolstered by a three from Collier and another three by Chastain, who finished with nine points and five assists. UALR hit 6 of 17 from three-point range in the game.

Troy led 52-43 heading into the final period, but UALR couldn't get any closer over the final 10 minutes.

ARKANSAS STATE 86,

SOUTH ALABAMA 80

Jireh Washington scored 18 points in the final 5:43, and Arkansas State University rallied from a 21-point deficit to post a victory over South Alabama at First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro.

South Alabama (13-16 Sun Belt) led 62-41 with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter before the Red Wolves (11-17, 8-9) charged back to earn their second consecutive victory.

Arkansas State scored the game's final nine points, taking the lead for good on Jada Ford's three-pointer with 1:11 to play. South Alabama went scoreless for the game's final 2:16.

Washington scored all 20 of her points in the second half. She was 7 of 11 from the floor and 4 of 4 on free throws. Payton Tennison added 15 points and handed out 5 assists for Arkansas State, while Morgan Wallace finished with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Ford finished with eight points.

Savannah Jones led South Alabama with 21 points.

South Alabama led 47-30 at the half, hit 29 of 69 (42.0%) from the floor and 10 of 15 (66.7%) from the line. Arkansas State was 32 of 71 (45.1%) from the floor and 12 of 15 (80%) from the line.

Sports on 03/06/2020

Print Headline: UALR women can't keep up with Sun Belt leader

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