The University of Arkansas at Little Rock women's basketball team hadn't played in 20 days when it returned Jan. 22 from a covid-19-induced break.
When the Trojans returned, their two leading scorers Bre'Amber Scott and Brianna Crane didn't, with both opting out. UALR's season appeared to be on the ropes.
In eight games since then, the Trojans have held their opponents to 47.3 points per game while compiling a 5-3 record.
"I think that the girls have really stepped up," UALR Coach Joe Foley said. "Different people have filled roles and taken the challenge. I haven't seen any letdown. I just see our kids working hard, and we've just got to keep moving forward."
UALR (10-7, 6-4 Sun Belt) will look to maintain its momentum when it travels to Arkansas State University (9-7, 4-6) at 5 p.m. today before a rematch in Little Rock at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Red Wolves are on a six-game losing streak entering the weekend.
"Any time you play a Joe Foley team, they're going to be good," ASU Coach Matt Daniel said. "We're preparing for a fight because that's what it's going to be for sure."
Since achieving a 9-1 start to the season, it's best since 1999-2000, ASU is winless dating back to Jan. 16. Missing over that span has been Jireh Washington, the junior guard who led the Red Wolves with 12.6 points per game before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Without its floor general, Daniel's team is averaging 57.8 ppg, well below ASU's season average of 69.0.
The Red Wolves have hung tough in the six losses, falling twice by fewer than three points and only once by more than 12.
"We fight," Daniel said. "We've proven that we'll fight. I was impressed by our effort Saturday especially after the way we lost on Friday."
A group of previously unproven Trojans -- including sophomores Ky'lie Scott, Alayzha Knapp and Angelique Francis, and freshman Tia Harvey -- have played a key role in UALR's resurgence.
Scott is averaging 13 ppg since entering the starting lineup Jan. 22, and Knapp and Francis have filled into Crane's forward role, combining for 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Harvey, who made her first two conference starts last weekend, pulled down 13 rebounds in Friday's win, then drained 3 three-pointers on Saturday.
Anchored by seniors Teal Battle (11.9 ppg) and Krystan Vornes (9.2 ppg), and the passing of junior Mayra Caicedo (7.1 assists per game), the young core has helped put UALR's season back on track.
"Whatever happens with all this covid stuff, and people opting out, we've kept the attitude that whatever happens, happens and we're just going to go and do the best that we can do," Foley said. "That's been the right attitude."