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Wright finds mark in UCA OT victory

by Mitchell Gladstone | December 4, 2022 at 3:50 a.m.

CONWAY -- With a through-the-legs dribble and a couple of crossovers, Randrea Wright let the shot clock tick under 10 seconds while waiting for a screen.

The Central Arkansas guard dribbled to the left elbow, then cut back right into the middle of the lane. Wright had already scored once in the final minute of overtime, canning a go-ahead jumper to put the Sugar Bears up 51-49.

Another basket would finish off a game UCA wished it had put to bed earlier.

Wright's floater with nine seconds to play capped the Sugar Bears' 53-49 overtime victory against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday afternoon at the Farris Center. Wright led UCA with 16 points and was joined in double figures by Parris Atkins (14) and Kayla Mitchell (10).

"She put the team on her back," Coach Sandra Rushing said of Wright. "She took those shots and had confidence."

A 7-0 Sugar Bear run to start the third quarter pushed the hosts' advantage to double digits for the first time all afternoon at 31-21, but UCA (4-2) couldn't crack things open even more.

But a 10-point lead could've been insurmountable. Both the Trojans and Sugar Bears rank among the bottom 20 teams in the country in scoring offense, each entering the day averaging fewer than 52 points per game.

What allowed UALR (1-5) to fight its way back -- as is often the case for Coach Joe Foley's teams -- was its defense. Despite UCA shooting 24 of 49 as a team, the Trojans forced 23 turnovers, eventually pulling level at 37-37 early in the fourth quarter.

UALR committed 21 giveaways of its own in a game where both teams wanted to push the pace. As Rushing explained, the Sugar Bears were hoping to get into their offensive sets before the Trojan defense could set up.

An up-tempo offense was going to be UALR's best option. With Sali Kourouma still not available, Angelique Francis working her way back into game shape and Jayla Brooks sidelined, the Trojans lacked a go-to scorer, and it showed.

"It's really hard since we've got people out," Foley said. "We're just not near where we've got to be. ... [And] when you make turnovers, you compound the problem."

With options limited, UALR turned to Nikki Metcalfe. The Arkansas Tech graduate transfer scored a game-high 18 points -- eight of them in the first quarter.

And when the Trojans needed scores in the last minute of the fourth quarter, Foley twice called the same set for Metcalfe. The first came up short, ending in the hands of freshman Faith Lee, who converted the put-back layup to tie things at 43-43.

The second, with eight seconds to play, also came up short, but UALR couldn't find a winner from the resulting mad scramble, sending things to overtime.

It was as close as the Trojans would come.

For UCA, the victory marked Sugar Bears' first against their in-state rival since January 1987 -- UALR had won each of the previous three meetings since the series resumed in November 2019.

"We just stayed hungry," Wright said. "We just kept pushing forward. It was a hard fight."

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