The Trojans erased double-digit deficits twice during the game to tie its contest with WKU at 56-56 with 3:40 to play, but the Lady Toppers closed the game with two timely field goals and made their free throws en route to a 66-62 win at Lakefront Arena.
The conference tournament run for UALR (18-12) ends while WKU (23-8) advances to the tournament final against Arkansas State on Saturday at 8 p.m. The Trojans will await Monday night’s selection shows to see if they get an at-large bid to the WNIT.
Junior Taylor Gault led UALR with 19 points on 6 of 16 shooting and seven free throws in seven attempts. She also had five assists in the game. Senior Taylor Ford had a great night in her last ever Sun Belt Tournament contest, scoring 10 while grabbing seven boards. Her classmate Hannah Fohne also scored in double figures with 10 points, reaching 10 for the first time since Jan. 4 at UT Arlington. She also had five rebounds and blocked two shots to bring her career total to a UALR-best 113.
Friday’s game seemed to belong to WKU on two separate occasions as they took an 11-point lead 12 minutes into the first half and a 15-point lead just five minutes into the second. UALR stormed back, though, briefly taking a lead in the first half before falling behind by double digits in the second half again.
Down 44-29, UALR completely took over the game for an 8-0 run that spanned just two minutes to cut the WKU lead to seven with 13 minutes to play. The Trojans then stayed within five to seven points of the Lady Toppers for the next eight minutes. Down 54-49 with 5:14 to play senior Hannah Fohne put in a layup to bring UALR within three. WKU’s Kendall Noble got a layup of her own on the next possession, but two Taylor Gault free throws had the team down just three points again.
Senior Taylor Ford knocked down a layup for herself to make it a 56-55 WKU lead, and she nailed a free throw with 3:40 left to know the game at 56-56.
But with a chance to take its first lead since late in the first half, UALR could not convert a fast-break layup when freshman Keanna Keys rimmed out an attempt on a pass from Ford. Instead, Noble made a jumper on the other end to put the Lady Toppers back in the lead. Fohne re-tied the game at 58-58 right after that, but Micah Jones struck 27 seconds later and gave her side a 60-58 lead.
Noble may have put the game away next, making a falling-down layup while getting fouled. The freshman hit the ensuring free throw, giving the Lady Toppers a 63-58 lead with 33 seconds left.
Still, UALR had a chance. Down by four points, Ford was fouled with 2.6 seconds remaining while attempting a 3-pointer. She made her first two attempts to make it a two-point game, but UALR was called for a lane violation on the third free throw while attempting to intentionally miss the shot and get an offensive rebound.
Two more free throws by Jones ended the night.
Keys had a strong performance in the game overall, making four of her five attempts, scoring eight points. Kiera Clark led the team with 11 rebounds, and freshman Di'Mond Jackson played a strong second half to finish with four points.
With her six field goals, Gault moved up to second all-time at UALR in made field goals, passing Kim Sitzmann. Ford moved up to 10th all-time in program history in points, just missing 900 for her career with 899.
WKU was very strong out of the gate, going on a 14-0 run after UALR had taken a small 4-2 lead. That put the Lady Toppers ahead 16-4 before a Fohne layup ended the nearly seven-minute UALR scoring drought. A Gault and-1 layup brought UALR back within 16-9 in the next minute, but WKU bounced back and went ahead 21-10 at the third media timeout.
From there, though, the Lady Toppers went cold, going nearly four minutes without a field goal as UALR scored six straight points to cut the WKU lead to only five. The Trojans continued to surge, using a 16-4 run to take the lead for the first time in more than 16 minutes at 26-25.
UALR could not close the half with the lead, though, letting WKU’s Jones make consecutive 3-pointers as time wound down. The Lady Toppers went into the break with a 31-26 lead.
UALR’s conference tournament is now over. The Trojans will hope to receive an at-large bid into the WNIT when post-season brackets are announced on Monday night.
(Courtesy: UALR Sports Information)
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