Jeff Reed – Clash of In-State Titans: UALR Women Host A-State Basketball


UALR Women Host A-State Women Tonight at 5:30

Men’s Game Follows

Jeff Reed Author PageWhen Arkansas State and UALR’s men’s teams meet Thursday night in at the Jack Stephens Center they will be playing for some type of Farm Bureau Trophy.

And that is good for the men’s teams because it could wind up being all they are playing for this season. Since they occupy two of the final three spots in the Sun Belt Conference standings, that means one would be sitting at home if the post-season tournament started tomorrow.

The Sun Belt takes eight teams to its winner-take-all postseason tourney. The winner of the tourney gets the coveted NCAA bid where it will be a 13th, or 14th seed. The best hope is to get into one of the playing games and therefore there is a realistic chance of winning a game in March.

Of course if neither team finishes strong they will still have that Farm Bureau trophy to plant in their trophy case.  Speaking of that trophy, it is somewhat of a puzzle to A-State followers. Why is it that when the two schools renew their rivalry in Little Rock each year a trophy is awarded the winner?  We know Farm Bureau is an insurance company (and there are more potential customers in Pulaski County) but it provides different services and calls itself the “Voice of Agriculture” in the state. Last time we checked, which was two days ago, there was a lot more agriculture up north. Research from the Arkansas Agriculture Department tells us there are about 84,000 acres of farmland in Pulaski County and 338,000 acres in Craighead.

But we are sure Farm Bureau knows its target market better than the folks in Jonesboro. After all, there used to be a dairy located right across the street.  It just might be a little easier for the folks up on the farm if it wasn’t an agri group giving the upper hand to the city folks.

With that being said, a bigger prize awaits the winner of tonight’s women’s games.  And a bigger, more important trophy is at stake. The league’s preseason polls told us that Arkansas State and UALR were the top two teams in the league. Although there current positioning is a not as the soothsayers said, they are still the top two teams in the league.

That game tips at 5:30. This is like the undercard in boxing having a prize fight while the later title match is much more about survival. It is the two best teams in the league and the top two winningest coaches in SBC history.

Last month up in Farmland, Arkansas State (17-7, 12-2) handed Joe Foley’s Trojans their first league loss. Since, both teams have continued to win and carry five-game winning streaks into tonight’s contest.

At 21-3 there has been little that has not worked for the Trojans (14-1 SBC) this season. They ranked second nationally in scoring defense (49.8 points per game) and have not allowed 50 points in their last five games.

Well the last time they did, it was in Farmland, when the Red Wolves won 70-69.  Junior Aundrea Gamble, the league’s player of the year a season ago, chipped in 31 in a road victory at Georgia Southern on Saturday. The big drawback for the Red Wolves is road losses at UL-Lafayette and Appalachian State in a stretch where the team played four games in eight days.

Gamble, junior, and UALR’s Taylor Gault, a senior from Conway, are two of the better players in the league and went head-to-head quite often in the first meeting.

The Red Wolves, who won the regular season title a year ago, seem to score more easily than the Trojans, who are as good as anyone nationally on the defensive side.

The teams have moved to the top of the league. And it is likely not to go away soon. And neither will that Farm Bureau thing. Sorry Jonesboro.

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Jeff Reed is editor of

ualr women


GM 25 >> UALR (21-3, 14-1 SBC) vs. Arkansas State (17-7, 12-2 SBC)
Thursday, Feb. 19 • 5:30 p.m. (CST)
Little Rock, Ark. • Jack Stephens Center
Live Stats/Video:
Radio: Trey Schaap (PxP) and Ron Jumper (Color) on 1090 AM

LITTLE ROCK – This is the game UALR fans have been waiting for. With both teams on identical five-game winning streaks and atop the conference standings, UALR and Arkansas State will clash at the Jack Stephens Center on Thursday evening with regular-season championship hopes at stake.

• UALR reached its 21st victory of the season on Saturday when it defeated Georgia Southern to sweep the season series from the Eagles. The Trojans now have 20 wins for the seventh time in nine seasons.
• The Trojans clinched a berth in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament last week, and the team now can finish no worse than fourth in the league.
• Keanna Keys was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week following what may be the best individual performance for any player in the league this year. The sophomore had 25 points and 13 rebounds on a perfect 11-of-11 shooting performance against Georgia Southern.
• The Trojans remain second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 49.8 points per game.
• The Trojans are allowing a mere 45.9 points per game in league play, 11.9 points better than the second-place team in that category.
• UALR is receiving 16 votes in this week’s USA Today Coaches Poll, its highest total of the season. The Trojans are also getting two votes in the AP Poll this week. The Trojans are also No. 9 in the Mid Major Top 25 rankings for the third straight week. UALR is No. 39 in the RPI rankings as of Tuesday morning.
• Arkansas State defeated UALR 70-69 in Jonesboro on Jan. 29, the Trojans’ lone loss of the Sun Belt season.

The Trojans’ 17-point victory against Georgia Southern on Saturday was impressive enough, but the team’s numbers were overshadowed by a career performance from sophomore Keanna Keys. Keys tallied career bests with 25 points and 13 rebounds for her first-ever double-double, and she did it all while shooting 11 of 11 from the field. Keys was perfect in a game where the Trojans’ guards struggled, helping UALR to its fifth straight win and 14th Sun Belt victory. UALR is now a 1 1/2 games ahead of Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Conference standings and four games ahead of third place. UALR has already clinched a spot in the league tournament and can do no worse than fourth in the league.

The Trojans are riding a huge wave of success over the last decade, making the postseason for six of the last seven seasons including three NCAA Tournament berths and three WNIT trips. The team had two players on the All-Sun Belt Preseason Team, and Coach Joe Foleyis back for his 12th year leading the Trojans. UALR was picked second in the Sun Belt’s preseason coaches poll.

• The Red Wolves, who come from nearby Jonesboro, are 17-7 on the season with a 12-2 conference record, second-best in the Sun Belt. Arkansas State’s two losses in the league came against Appalachian State and Louisiana. The Red Wolves had Saturday off and are coming off an 81-73 victory over Georgia Southern on Feb. 12.
• Arkansas State played a difficult non-conference schedule, losing to Power 5 Conference foes Mississippi State, Colorado, Ohio State and Kansas. UALR and Arkansas State both beat Missouri State in non-league play.
• Aundrea Gamble is by far the Red Wolves’ best player, and she was named to the league’s Preseason First Team. She has won three SBC Player of the Week awards this year, and she is averaging 19.8 points per game and is second with 5.5 rebounds per game. She also leads A-State with 4.9 assists per game.
• Khadi Brown-Haywood (10.8), Hanna Qedan (10.7) and Jasmine Hunt (10.1) are also averaging double-figure scoring. Hunt leads the way with 5.9 rebounds per game.
• Brian Boyer is Arkansas State’s coach, and he is the longest tenured coach in the Sun Belt. His career record is the same as his record with the Red Wolves, and in 16 years he is 265-219.

Arkansas State is UALR’s longest active rival, and the Red Wolves have a large 44-14 advantage in the all-time series. But since UALR became a Division I school in 1999-2000, things are much more even. Since 2000, UALR is 13-18 against the Red Wolves, and since 2006 the Trojans lead the series 13-6. The Red Wolves beat the Trojans 70-69 in Jonesboro on Jan. 29 as two late free throws sealed the game. Arkansas State has never won at the Jack Stephens Center since it opened in the 2005-06 season.

…split the regular-season series…give UALR a 2 1/2-game cushion in the conference standings with four games left to play… give UALR 15 wins in league play for the first time since 2009-10…be UALR’s sixth straight win overall…be the team’s 23rd consecutive Sun Belt win at home.

In the last nine years, UALR has done a tremendous job in its conference games, claiming at least 12 victories in each of those years. The Trojans have not finished below .500 in the Sun Belt since the 2005-06 season, Joe Foley‘s third year. UALR also won the West Division Championship for six consecutive seasons when the league still had divisions. Over the last nine seasons, the Trojans hold a record of 125-32 in the league, and UALR won the conference tournament championship twice.

Sophomore Keanna Keys had the best game of her UALR career on Saturday against Georgia Southern, posting career highs with 25 points and 13 rebounds for her first double-double. Even more impressive, Keys reached those 25 points while going 11 of 11 from the field and 3 of 3 from the free-throw line. As a reward, she was named the Sun Belt Player of the Week. UALR has now had four different players earn Sun Belt Player of the Week this season including Keys, Kaitlyn PrattTaylor Gault and Ka’Nesheia Cobbins.

Keys’ shooting perfection from the field was a rare performance, and she broke the UALR record for field goal percentage in a game. Keys is the first player in UALR history to shoot 100 percent from the field in a game where she attempted at least eight baskets. The last UALR player to go perfect from the field with at least six attempts was Marian Kursh vs. Seattle on Dec. 21, 2011. She went 6 for 6.

With her 25 points and 13 rebounds, Keanna Keys becomes the fifth Trojan this year to record a double-double. She joins Kiera ClarkKa’Nesheia CobbinsShanity James and Kaitlyn Pratt on that list. Of those, only James has more than one this year. James has gotten a double-double four times, most recently at Georgia Southern on Jan. 31.

UALR allowed Georgia Southern to score a mere 15 points in the first half of their game on Saturday, making the Eagles UALR’s 12th opponent this year to have a half with 20 points scored or fewer.

Though Alexius Dawn had a cold shooting night against Georgia Southern, she was able to contribute to UALR’s victory in other ways. The junior set a new season high with seven rebounds in the game, and she also helped out by dishing out five assists. Dawn did manage to make one 3-pointer, a feat she has accomplished in all but four games this year.

UALR has outmatched its opponents this season on the fast break, averaging 6.7 fast break points per game to the opposition’s 2.0. UALR has 161 fast-break points this season while its opponents have only 47. UALR has not allowed a fast-break point in its last five games.

In his 12 years here with continued excellence, Joe Foley is climbing the rankings of the best coaches in Sun Belt Conference history. With the win against Georgia Southern on Saturday, Foley reached 136 Sun Belt wins, to break a three-way tie for second all-time in the Sun Belt. The only other coach ahead of Foley for Sun Belt wins is Arkansas State’s Brian Boyer with 149 and counting. Boyer, though, has had four extra years to pile up those 13 extra wins. Foley is averaging 11.3 league wins per year while Boyer has only 9.3.

Though she contributed just four points against the Eagles on Saturday, Taylor Gault did exactly enough to reach another milestone in her career. With a jumper midway through the second half, Gault attained 1,800 points in her four years with the Trojans. She is still more than 400 points away from UALR’s all-time scoring record, but she is comfortably in second place.

Allowing just 49.8 points per game overall, UALR sits at No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense as of Wednesday. In Sun Belt only games, UALR is giving up an impressive 45.9 points per game, 11.9 points fewer than second-place UT Arlington’s 57.8 points per game allowed. UALR finished seventh in the nation in scoring defense after the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, but a finish in second this year would be the school’s best ever.

Besides its excellence at defensively, UALR also ranks in the top 20 nationally in 3-point shooting percentage. The Trojans have made 37 percent of their shots from downtown, trailing only 15 other teams in the country. UALR is relying on the 3-pointer much more than it had last season, and the results are already showing. The Trojans have made 90 3-pointers this year, bettering the total they made in all of 2013-14 by 30.

UALR’s victory over Texas State on Feb. 7 was yet another win by at least 20 points, as UALR claimed the game by 27. The Bobcats became UALR’s 11th Sun Belt opponent to be beaten by at least 20 points. The Trojans’ scoring margin in league play is 22.0 points per game.

With the win against Georgia Southern on Saturday, UALR again defended its home court. The team has won 22 consecutive conference games at home. UALR had an incredible home-court advantage last season, going 13-1 for a winning percentage of .928. The Trojans were also 9-0 at home in conference play, finishing their Sun Belt slate undefeated at home. The team has done this three times in its history now under Joe Foley, going 9-0 in 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2013-14. Overall at the Jack Stephens Center, UALR is 124-22, a winning percentage of .849.

UALR is receiving the most votes it has all season in this week’s USA Today Coaches Poll. The Trojans, now in the RV category for the fourth straight week, have earned 16 votes in the poll released Tuesday. The team is ranked 31st in the nation. UALR is also back in the AP Poll this week, earning two votes to tie its season high in that poll. The Trojans also remain strong in the Mid Major Top 25 poll from UALR remained at No. 9 for the third straight week, but it is still the only Sun Belt school in the rankings. Arkansas State has made the “receiving votes” category with 40 points. UALR has 496.

As of Tuesday morning, the Trojans are ranked No. 39 in the country according to the NCAA’s RPI rankings. UALR down two places from its ranking before defeating Georgia Southern on Saturday. The next-highest Sun Belt school in the rankings, Arkansas State, is ranked No. 57.

UALR’s opponents this season have been committing turnovers at an incredible rate, owing largely to the Trojans’ defense. South Dakota State committed 28 turnovers on Dec. 18, the largest number for any Trojan opponent this year. Fifteen of the Trojans’ 24 opponents coughed up the ball at least 20 times this year including Appalachian State on Feb. 12 (26). UALR opponents are averaging 20.2 turnovers per game. All of last year, opponents averaged 17.4 turnovers per game. UALR, meanwhile, only averages 14.5 turnovers per game this season.

The Trojans continue to pester opponents this season with pressure defense, and their steal totals keep climbing because of it. While Trojan opponents have 113 steals all season, UALR has picked up 208 steals in its 24 games. The Trojans, averaging 8.6 steals per game, earned a season-high 15 steals against South Dakota State on Dec. 18. The team has recorded at least 10 steals in six games, and only one team has had more than 10 steals against the Trojans. UALR held Georgia Southern to just one steal on Saturday night.


Against Georgia Southern:
• Taylor Gault scored her 1,800th career point.
• Shanity James made her 200th free throw.
• Ka’Nesheia Cobbins got her 250th rebound.
Coming soon:
• Taylor Gault‘s next block will tie her for second all-time at UALR.
• Alexius Dawn needs one more 3-pointer to break 50 in her career.
• Kiera Clark is five steals shy of 100.
• Shanity James will move up to ninth all-time at UALR with four more made free throws.

UALR will have a short turnaround and a long flight ahead of it before its next game. The Trojans will travel to Troy, Ala., to take on the Sun Belt’s other Trojans on Saturday at 2 p.m. UALR defeated Troy 82-56 in Little Rock on Jan. 22.

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