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Back and winning: Trojans return, rally by Chanticleers

by Mitchell Gladstone | January 14, 2022 at 6:55 a.m.
UALR’s Sali Kourouma drives to the basket during the Trojans’ victory over Coastal Carolina on Thursday at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. Kourouma led all scorers with 23 points. More photos available at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

Raziya Potter was exhausted. She walked toward midcourt after about three minutes of non-stop action, waiting for a sub to come to the scorer's table.

When she took a seat, the transfer took a swig of water and leaned back in her chair.

It wasn't shocking to see the University of Arkansas at Little Rock tired early in the second quarter -- the Trojans hadn't played in a month, after all. But a glance around the floor with just eight points scored by the hosts in 13 minutes and it would've been hard to envision them winning.

No matter.

UALR hung on for a 54-50 victory against Coastal Carolina on Thursday night at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, notching a win in its Sun Belt Conference opener following a 31-day hiatus. The Trojans had seven consecutive games canceled because of covid-19 protocols and roster issues.

Trailing by 10 points with five minutes until halftime, the Trojans asserted themselves with an extended 25-4 burst spanning the second and third quarters and were carried by 38 combined points from Sali Kourouma and Krystan Vornes.

"Any time you hold teams in the 50s, you have a shot," said UALR Coach Joe Foley, whose team limited the Chanticleers to 19-of-61 shooting and converted 14 turnovers into 13 points. "The nights we score, we've got a chance of being pretty good. And the nights we don't, we've still got a chance to win and we proved that again tonight."

Things got a little dicey down the stretch as the Trojans' tired legs really showed themselves in the fourth quarter. UALR (6-5, 1-0) got its last bucket of the game with just less than five minutes remaining, and the hosts watched what was a 10-point advantage dwindle to one with 2:36 left.

Coastal Carolina (12-3, 2-2) had five chances to get a go-ahead or tying score, but the Chanticleers could never convert. Aja Blount, who led the visitors with 17 points, forced up a tough layup with two seconds remaining that would've likely sent the game to overtime.

Blount's shot bounced out, though, and the Trojans grabbed the rebound, sealing things with two free throws by Dariel Johnson.

"When I made my first basket, I said, 'OK, here we go. We haven't played for a month now,' " Kourouma said when asked about noticing tired legs. "We have to show up so the other team can respect us."

But that wasn't the case early. Although Vornes and Kourouma scored on UALR's opening two possessions, the Trojans shot 1 of 10 from the field the rest of the quarter.

They started the next quarter 1 of 6 before a Kourouma basket kickstarted a 12-0 burst to end the half and give the Trojans a 23-21 lead at the break.

"I didn't think it would be that bad in movement, but we were bad those first five minutes," Foley said. "You don't really know what to expect when you've been off that long and the other team has been playing. They got after us and we didn't execute. ... But once we got going, I thought we played pretty decent at times."

Mayra Caicedo had a season-high nine assists, giving the senior at least four in 8 of 11 games this season.

While UALR's offense has been reliant on Kourouma much of the season -- as it was again Thursday -- the Trojans got a much-needed boost from Vornes, who started for only the fifth time this season.

She logged her third double-double in her past five games, matching her season-best with 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

"KV was there. She was making the shots," Kourouma said. "I was so happy for her. I want more people to [have] that confidence. I know they can do it."

Coastal Carolina;M;FG;FT;O-R;PF;A;PTS

Janae Camp;14;0-1;0-0;2-3;2;0;0





Janeen Camp;22;3-8;0-0;6-11;4;1;6








PCT — FG 31.1, FT 56.3. 3-PT — 3-15, 20.0 (Buggs 2-3, Shultz 1-4, Juste-Jean 0-1, Richardson 0-1, Blount 0-2, Brown 0-2, Freeman 0-2). BL — 2 (Janeen Camp 2). TO — 14 (Juste-Jean 4). ST — 5 (Blount, Buggs, Janeen Camp, Freeman, Shultz).












PCT — FG 37.7, FT 71.4. 3-PT — 4-13, 30.8 (Kourouma 2-4, Potter 1-3, Caicedo 1-4, Vornes 0-2). BL — 4 (Francis, Kourouma, Potter, Vornes). TO — 16 (Caicedo 5). ST — 3 (Caicedo, Johnson, Kourouma).

Coastal Carolina;13;8;12;17


Officials — Bills, Gearhart, Malone

Attendance — 1,814


  photo  UALR guard Raziya Potter dribbles around a Coastal Carolina defender Thursday during the Trojans’ 54-50 victory over the Chanticleers at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

 Gallery: UALR Women's Basketball

Print Headline: Back and winning


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