In its first home game in nearly three weeks, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock women's basketball team picked up a 50-45 win over Lindenwood in front of a crowd of mostly energetic school children Thursday afternoon at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
Faith Lee scored 18 of her 24 points in the second half to carry the Trojans offensively. Lee shot 10 of 21 from the field and 4 of 5 from the free-throw line. UALR (6-12, 5-2 Ohio Valley Conference) shot 20 of 42 (47.6%) from the field.
"Mostly just trying to stay under control and let it come to me and not rush," Lee said of her offensive mindset. "We just make sure to get it to the open player because anybody can score. We can score at all positions."
Both teams started off slow offensively, with UALR holding an 8-7 lead through one quarter. Lindenwood used a 7-0 scoring run early in the second quarter to take a 14-10 advantage with 6:12 remaining in the half.
Lindenwood's Ellie Brueggemann made three of her six three-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes and was the game's high-scorer at halftime with nine points as the Lions went into the break leading 22-19. Brueggemann finished withg 12 points as the UALR defense held the Lions' leading scorer to just three points in the second half.
"We limited her [Brueggemann] catches and just made it hard on her to score," Lee said of the halftime adjustments. "Mainly just stay focused and stay under control. Play solid defense and minimize our turnovers."
With point guard Jaiyah Harris-Smith missing the game due to a knee injury, Jayla Brooks took over the responsibility of being the primary ball-handler for the Trojans. Brooks finished with 10 points and four rebounds.
"For her first game [at point guard], I thought [Brooks] did a good job," UALR Coach Joe Foley said of the backcourt shuffle. "She has to get used to it. We've been using her scoring a little bit more. She's been shooting the three, so I hate to do that, but right now she's the best ball-handler we got."
The pace of play picked up as the game moved into the third quarter. A three-point play by Brooks just 15 seconds into the quarter tied the game at 22-22. Lee kept the game close as she scored 10 of the Trojans' 13 points in the third quarter=.
"That's going to have to be her typical game," Foley said of Lee's performance. "That's her role right now. She knows that. She's a good kid. She wants to be a leader and she wants wants to be a good player. We got to have her do that."
Lindenwood (3-14, 1-6) entered the fourth quarter leading 37-32, but the Trojans used a quick 8-2 scoring spurt to regain the lead at 40-39 following a coast-to-coast layup by Jordan Holman with 6:09 left.
The teams continued to trade baskets down the stretch. A free throw line jumper from Lee gave the Trojans a 44-43 advantage with 2:13 remaining. Brooks came up with a crucial steal with 27 seconds left and Lee made two free throws to extend the UALR lead to 46-43 with 24 seconds to go.
Brueggemann missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game with less than 20 seconds left, and the Trojans converted on their late free throws to close out the game. UALR outscored the Lions 18-8 in the fourth quarter to secure the comeback victory.
"It was a game of up and down," Foley said. "It's conference play, so both groups knew what to guard and what to do so it made it hard for either team to score. In that fourth quarter [it was great] to play the way we did and be able to get some baskets and create some things and not struggle quite as much."