UALR Erases Halftime Deficit in Bouncing Middle Tennessee Saturday Night, 51-43

Courtesy University of Central Arkansas Athletics Department

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Trojans came into the game with a 78-game winning streak when holding their opponents to 50 points or less.

Make it 79.

UALR (18-7, 10-6 SBC) used smothering defense to erase a five-point halftime deficit to beat Middle Tennessee (18-7, 13-3) 51-43 Saturday (Feb. 16) at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, Ark. The Trojans have now won seven straight while the Blue Raiders have lost two-in-a-row in conference play for the first time since Feb. 6 and 9, 2008 (UALR and FIU).

Outrebounded by 20 by Middle Tennessee earlier this season, UALR and the Blue Raiders grabbed 31 rebounds apiece. UALR shot 41.9 percent (18-43) for the contest while holding MTSU to 35.4 percent (17-48), including 29.6 percent (8-27) in the second half.

Individually, junior Taylor Ford notched a game-high 16 points for the fifth time in seven games. Sophomore Kiera Clark added 10 points. Clark and Ford grabbed six boards to lead the Trojans in a balanced rebounding effort.

Middle Tennessee was paced by Ebony Rowe’s 14 points. Icelyn Elie and Kortni Jones added 12 as the trio accounted for 38 of the Blue Raiders 43 points.

UALR fell behind by 12 points in the first half before mounting a comeback and pulling within three. With the visitors up 5-2, Jones hit a jumper and followed that with MTSU’s only triple of the half to put the Blue Raiders up 10-2 with 14:41 left until break. Freshman Morgan Bolton stopped the run for UALR when she grabbed a turnover and went coast-to-coat for the easy two.

The Blue Raiders scored the next four points to go up 16-4 with 10:29 left in the first, but UALR ended the stanza with a 13-6 run to pull within five at the break. The Trojans grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds before finding Bolton at the top of the arc for a three. After Rowe hit a jumper for Middle Tennessee, Ford added a pair from the line. Sophomore Taylor Gault followed that with a mid-range jumper and sophomore Ka’Nesheia Cobbins grabbed a rebound and drove all the way for a banked jumper. UALR trailed 20-15 with 3:11 left.

After both teams traded buckets, junior Hannah Fohne hit a jumper just inside the arc to pull UALR within three with 2:28 left until intermission. Lauren March closed out the scoring in the half with a layup for MTSU as the visitors led 22-17 at the break. UALR held a 14-11 rebounding edge in the first stanza, but Middle Tennessee countered by hitting 42.9 percent (9-21) from the field.

The second half saw UALR go on an 8-0 run to take its first lead of the ballgame. Down 25-20, freshman Shanity James found Ford for a triple to cut the deficit to two. Clark grabbed an offensive rebound and got the stick back to tie the game for the first time. James split and Ford hit a pair from the line to put the Trojans up 28-25 with 15:31 left.

Jones answered for the visitors with a three and lay-up to give MTSU the 30-28 lead. Gault split from the line, but a layup by the Blue Raiders’ Caroline Warden put Middle Tennessee up 32-29 with 11:03 left. Freshman Carolee Dillard hit nothing but net on a jumper and Ford grabbed a turnover and scored to put UALR back up 33-32 with 10:32 left.

Both teams traded the lead seven times in a five-minute span until Dillard nailed a free throw line jumper to give the Trojans a lead it did not relinquish with 6:33 left. Cobbins split from the line and hit a layup on a helper from Ford to extend the lead to 42-38. James split from the line and Clark hit a jumper to cap an 8-0 run by UALR to put the Trojans ahead 45-38 with 1:23 left.

Middle Tennessee would not go away without a fight thanks to a pair of putbacks on missed shots. MTSU was forced to foul and Ford hit a pair from the charity stripe to put UALR up 47-42 with 32 ticks left. MTSU was fouled with 21 seconds left. The Blue Raiders split from the line and cleaned the offensive glass, but UALR forced a turnover and Clark outletted to Ford racing down the court for the easy basket with 13 seconds left. Cobbins then stole the ball and James hit a pair from the line to close out the game.

With the win, UALR achieved a season split in the regular season series with Middle Tennessee. The Trojans and Blue Raiders are 4-4 in their last eight meetings. 

UALR returns to action Thursday when it travels to Miami to take on FIU. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. CST.

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