Joe Foley's Trojans eliminated from tourney
NEW ORLEANS – The Little Rock women's basketball team saw its run in the Sun Belt Tournament come to an end on Saturday night with a 79-71 loss against Louisiana at Lakefront Arena.
No. 1 Little Rock (24-8) could not stop No. 5 Louisiana (20-10) in the paint, as the Cajuns scored 58 points in the paint on their way to an upset over the top-ranked Trojans.
With the loss, Little Rock faces an uncertain postseason fate. The Trojans could be selected as an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament. If not, the Trojans will earn a place in the Postseason WNIT. Both brackets will be announced on Monday night.
Little Rock led by as many as 10 points in the second quarter, had a 7-point lead midway through the third quarter as well. But for every Little Rock run, Louisiana had an answer.
Little Rock took 2-point leads at 61-59 and 63-61 with 5:56 left in the game, but the Cajuns continued to make easy layups inside and build a lead that Little Rock could not come back from. Louisiana shot 90 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, making nine of their 10 attempts from the field and all six free throws in the final period to pull away for the win.
Sharde' Collins scored 27 points to lead the Trojans, and Ronjanae DeGray had 16. Monique Townson also reached double figures with 12 points. Kyra Collier had a team-high four assists and two steals. Senior Kaitlyn Pratt scored seven points and tied with Collier for the team lead in rebounding with five.
After beginning the game in a shooting slump and making just one of their first six field-goal attempts, Little Rock closed the quarter making eight of their last nine attempts. That streak – which included a deep, banked-in, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Townson – helped Little Rock go from down 9-2 to ahead 22-19 after 10 minutes. Collins had 11 points in the first quarter on 5-of-9 shooting.
The Trojans' offense continued to click to begin the second quarter, and the team led 31-21 to force a Cajuns timeout. From there, though, Louisiana took over. The Cajuns closed the half with a 19-8 run, taking a 40-38 lead into half. Louisiana got into the paint to get back into the game, scoring 28 points down low and getting to the free-throw line seven times to Little Rock's two.
To start the third quarter, though, Little Rock's offense got back in the groove. After an early Cajuns basket, Little Rock went on an 11-0 run that included successful and-1 plays from DeGray, Collins and Townson. In that span, the Cajuns missed eight consecutive shots to make it a 49-42 Trojan lead midway through the period.
The momentum turned after that once again, as the Cajuns scored 13 of the next 14 points over the final five minutes of the period to take a 55-50 lead into the fourth quarter.
Little Rock will now await its postseason fate, which will be determined on Monday night. If the Trojans do not make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team, they have earned an automatic spot in the Postseason WNIT. The NCAA Selection Show is scheduled for 6 p.m. eastern on ESPN, and the WNIT bracket will be announced later Monday night.