UALR Gets Defensive in 49-40 Win at South Alabama

Courtesy UALR Athletics Department

MOBILE, Ala. – The UALR Trojans (10-1, 3-0 Sun Belt) overcame a slow first half with stifling second half defense and claimed a 49-40 win over South Alabama (7-5, 0-3 SBC) Saturday afternoon (Dec. 22) in Mobile, Ala.

Facing its first halftime deficit of the season, UALR outscored South Alabama 27-17 in the second and held the Jaguars to 22.6 percent shooting (7-31). The Trojans also went on a 14-0 run, held USA without a field goal for more than 12 minutes and forced a pair of shot clock violations on consecutive defensive possessions.

UALR had a 41-39 edge on the battle of the boards and shot 20-52 from the field (38.5 percent). South Alabama outscored the Trojan bench 14-9 and shot 17-63 (27 percent) for the contest.

Sophomore Taylor Gault led a balanced scoring attack with 13 points. Junior Hannah Fohne grabbed a career-best 16 rebounds, corralling 12 in the first half alone. Fohne and senior Janette Merriex both added eight points.

Brianna Wright came off the bench for South Alabama with 10 points. Ronneka Robertson and Veronica Cherizol added nine boards while USA’s leading scorer for the season, Mary Nixon, was held to eight points.

Both teams could not find a groove offensively in the first half. Diamonisha Sophus added a fast break lay-up with 6:17 left in the first to put USA up 15-8, the largest deficit UALR has faced this season on the road. The Trojans answered right back with a jumper inside the left arc followed by a jumper in the left post by freshman Carolee Dillard. South Alabama responded with a bucket, but Gault hit freshman Jakeisha Wells under the hoop to cut the deficit to three.

After South Alabama split at the line, sophomore Taylor Ford hit a triple and drove along the right baseline for a mid-range jumper to give UALR a 19-18 lead with 1:59 left in the first half, the first Trojan lead since 2-0. The teams traded three-pointers before a Cherizol lay-up right before half gave South Alabama the 23-22 lead at intermission.

Both teams came out strong on the offensive end in the first minute of the second half. Nixon put USA up three before Gault cut it to one on a jumper from the left elbow. Nixon added a layup for South Alabama at the 19:17 mark, but UALR scored 14 unanswered while holding the Jaguars without a field goal for the next 12 minutes. Ford found Wells inside on the right block to start the spurt before a jumper by Merriex just inside the arc put UALR up for good.

Up 28-27, UALR extended the lead on a Gault jumper on the right side after creating space on a head-fake and drive. Moments later, Gault drove and kicked out to Merriex on the right wing to put UALR up by five. A pair of Gault jumpers and two from the charity stripe from Ford put UALR up 38-27 with 10:35 left, its largest lead of the game.

South Alabama ended its nine-minute scoring drought with a pair from the line to bring the deficit back to single digits, but both teams’ defense settled in as neither team could find the bottom of the net for the next four minutes.

Sophus brought USA within 38-31 with a layup at the six-minute mark. Fohne answered with a jumper to put UALR back up nine. Mansa El completed an old-fashioned three pointer to cut the UALR advantage to six, but the Jaguars got no closer. UALR scored the next four points to take a 44-34 lead with 2:37 left and made 5-7 from the charity stripe down the stretch to salt the game away.

UALR returns to action in a week when it travels to Lafayette, La. to battle Louisiana-Lafayette. Tip-off against the Rajin’ Cajuns is scheduled for 5 p.m.