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UALR gets tough on UCA

by Mitchell Gladstone | December 5, 2021 at 3:45 a.m.














PCT — FG 34.3, FT 56.0. 3-PT — 0-2. 00.0 (Hudspeth 0-1, Langhi 0-1). BL — 2 (Cody, Walker). TO — 27 (Ibeh 6). ST — 5 (Wright 3).












PCT — FG 34.9, FT 100.0. 3-PT — 8-19. 42.1 (Conn 4-5, Kourouma 2-6, Potter 2-6, Caicedo 0-1, Eddins 0-1). BL — 2 (Johnson, Robinson). TO — 15 (Potter 6). ST — 7 (Johnson 3).

UCA;13 9 8 8 — 38

UALR;15 16 16 15 — 62

Officials — Markey, Schwartz, Winders

Attendance — 728

It was ironic when Saturday's game halted with a little more than three minutes to go in the opening quarter.

All of the lights on the scoreboard high atop the Jack Stephens Center shut off, then flashed back on. The time above the backboards jumped from 3:19 to 8:00.

A technology malfunction was the only thing that was going to break the scoreboard in a game between two teams that each entered the day averaging 58.8 points per game. And the matchup between in-state rivals was just as ugly as expected.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock overwhelmed Central Arkansas with its defense, forcing 27 turnovers by the Sugar Bears and running away with a 62-38 win. Sali Kourouma, still not at full strength after suffering a knee injury less than two weeks ago, scored a game-high 20 points for the Trojans and Amari Conn knocked down four three-pointers for UALR to add 14.

Randrea Wright was the only UCA player with more than six points -- she posted 12 and had five rebounds.

"This game was ugly on our part," Sugar Bears Coach Sandra Rushing said. "We were just outmatched."

UCA (3-4) hung with the Trojans after going down early, even taking a 19-18 lead midway through the second quarter. But UALR started to find some rhythm, turning defense into offense as they closed the half on a 13-3 burst to lead 31-22 at the break.

The Trojans then scored 10 of the first 13 points in the third quarter, turning a one-point deficit into a 16-point lead. The Bears never got within 14 the rest of the way, and while UALR (5-4) was shorthanded -- Krystan Vornes missed a second straight game due to a non-covid illness and Tia Harvey has a high-ankle sprain that will keep her out multiple weeks -- it didn't really matter with the hosts on cruise control.

"The second half, I thought we stayed with our defense pretty well," Trojans Coach Joe Foley said. "We didn't give them anything easy, and like I said, we had spurts on offense where we did some good things, but we've got to do better."

Conn's 5-of-7 shooting was certainly a positive for UALR, which has been reliant on Kourouma for offense. Her 14 points set a new career high, and once Vornes is back in the mix, the Trojans could have as many as four consistent scoring options.

That includes Raziya Potter, who followed her 23-point performance from earlier in the week at Texas A&M with a dozen against UCA, albeit on 4-of-16 shooting.

"It's very hard," Potter said when asked about transferring from San Jose State. "Coming from a program where I've been there for three years, it's definitely a different style and whatnot, but I'm gradually getting there and getting better."

The Sugar Bears were out of sync all afternoon, logging just one assist on their 12 made field goals, something Rushing said was "selfish." Although she'd prepared her team for UALR's physicality and defensive presence -- something Rushing is quite familiar with having coached against Foley for multiple decades -- the UCA coach hopes her young team now better understands what it'll be up against when ASUN Conference play rolls around in a few weeks.

As for the Trojans, they won't play for eight days until they visit Arkansas. And though Saturday wasn't pretty, it gave a glimpse of the identity this UALR team is already defining.

"They're going to make a run," Rushing said of the Trojans. "Look who they beat, [SEC] schools. ... They're going through their injuries right now but they can win their conference and make a deep run in the tournament."

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