Round 3 For UALR Women, Middle Tennessee In Sun Belt Final

HOT SPRINGS — Monday’s Sun Belt Conference women’s championship game has much to live up to. The last two matchups between the UALR Trojans and Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders for the tourney title have been down-to-the-wire classics. Middle Tennessee won an overtime thriller in 2010, and last year UALR downed Middle Tennessee in overtime after making a buzzer beater in regulation.

The two programs, which have dominated the Sun Belt Conference for the past five years, meet again at Summit Arena on Monday, with tip-off at 1 p.m.

UALR will be looking for its third straight Sun Belt tourney title; the Trojans downed Western Kentucky in 2011, the one season in the last five that Middle Tennessee failed to advance to the championship game.

Taylor Gault led four Trojans in double figures Sunday in a 74-54 win over Western Kentucky, which had owned the Trojans in two regular-season meetings. Middle Tennessee overcame a 10-point deficit early in the second half and pulled away from Florida International 68-59 in the first Sunday semifinal.

Ebony Rowe and Kortni Jones combined for 47 points for Middle Tennessee, with Jones leading the 3-point attack by hadding 4 of 7. Icelyn Elie and Caroline Warden had 10 points each.

UALR was never in trouble in taking a 37-25 lead by halftime and extending the advantage to as much as 28 with 15:24  left in the game. Gault scored 18 points and hit two 3-pointers. Shanity James had 15 points and a team-leading 9 rebounds, while Kiera Clark had 14 points. Point guard Taylor Ford, last year’s hero in the Sun Belt final, had 13 points and 7 assists.

Joe Foley’s Trojans (24-7) forced WKU into 19 turnovers while committing 6. Clark had 4 of UALR’s 10 steals. UALR outscored WKU 27-2 in points off turnovers. UALR, pushing its winning streak to 13 games after a sluggish start to the season, held Western (21-12) to its third lowest scoring output of the year.

UALR was red hot to start both halves, hitting nine if its first 15 shots in each period The Trojans shot 47.5 percent (29-61) with 20 assists.

For Western Kentucky, Alexis Govan scored 29 points while Chastity Gooch recorded 11 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.

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