NEW ORLEANS -- The quest to repeat as Sun Belt Conference Tournament champions begins today for the UALR women's basketball team.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock (19-10) earned the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament after finishing 15-3 in conference play, including four consecutive victories to end the regular season.
UALR will meet No. 5 Appalachian State (18-13) at 11:30 a.m. today at Lakefront Arena.
UALR suffered a bump in February with a pair of losses, but the setbacks helped the Trojans rediscover a championship version of themselves.
"It took them a while to grow up," UALR Coach Joe Foley said. "This group is a good group. They developed into a good basketball team. I think we understand strengths and weaknesses now. The last two weeks, we grew up a lot."
After consecutive losses to Texas State on Feb. 16 and Arkansas State on Feb. 23, the Trojans reeled off four consecutive victories to clinch a co-Sun Belt regular-season championship with No. 2 seed Texas-Arlington.
"The motivation and the need to want to win and pull back-to-back championships, that's what's been working for us," senior forward Raeyana DeGray said March 2 after UALR's final home game of the season.
UALR and Appalachian State have met once previously this season. The Trojans defeated the Mountaineers 74-59 on Jan. 26 in Boone, N.C. The Trojans bolted out to a 43-24 lead at halftime.
"Fortunately, up there, we jumped out in front and they kind of got their heads down a little bit," Foley said. "We played a good game up there. But they're a good scoring offense."
To Foley, the largest concern for UALR in today's semifinal is defense.
"Well," Foley said, "Appalachian State can score the ball. That's their big thing. They've got a lot of different scorers. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways."
The Mountaineers averaged 68.9 points per game this season prior to a 47-45 upset victory Thursday against No. 4 seed Georgia State at Lakefront Arena.
On Wednesday, Appalachian State posted 41 first-half points in a 78-42 victory against No. 8 seed Coastal Carolina to advance to Thursday's quarterfinal.
In 10 different games, Appalachian State has made seven or more three-pointers. UALR has made seven or more three-pointers in one game this season, going 10 for 18 in an 82-50 victory against Georgia Southern on March 2.
Appalachian State is 2-0 at Lakefront Arena this week. Today's game will be its third in three days.
UALR is 11-0 all-time against the Mountaineers, and 2-0 against Appalachian State on a neutral court.
The winner of Appalachian State and UALR will advance to the Sun Belt championship game at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Lakefront Arena. The winner of Texas-Arlington and No. 7 seed South Alabama will be waiting.
Texas-Arlington and South Alabama -- which upset No. 3 seed Troy 87-74 on Thursday -- will tip off at 2 p.m. today.
Can the Trojans repeat? They think so.
"I do believe that we can do it," DeGray said.
UALR women vs. Appalachian State
WHEN 11:30 a.m. Central
WHERE Lakefront Arena, New Orleans
RECORDS UALR 19-10, 15-3 Sun Belt Conference; Appalachian State 18-13, 10-8
SERIES UALR leads 11-0.
RADIO KARN-AM, 920, in Little Rock
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
POS. NAME, HT, YR. PPG RPG
G Kyra Collier, 5-9, Jr. 14.1 4.9
G Tori Lasker, 5-7, So. 9.9 2.5
G Terrion Moore, 5-8, So. 7.9 4.3
F Ronjanae DeGray, 6-0, Sr. 14.5 6.9
F Raeyana DeGray, 5-11, Sr. 6.7 5.3
COACH Joe Foley (331-172 in 16th season at UALR, 787-254 in 30th season overall)
POS. NAME, HT, YR. PPG RPG
G Madi Story, 5-10, Sr. 12.0 4.6
G Pre Stanley, 5-9, So. 9.8 4.0
G Ashley Polacek, 5-5, Jr. 9.6 2.7
F Lainey Gosnell, 6-1, So. 10.7 4.5
C Bayley Plummer, 6-4, Jr. 7.4 12.3
COACH Angel Elderkin (62-91 in fifth season at Appalachian State and overall)
UALR Appalachian State
61.2 Points for 68.9
56.2 Points against 69.0
-0.6 Rebound margin +5.6
+2.9 Turnover margin -1.6
43.0 FG pct. 40.0
33.0 3-pt. pct. 31.0
72.3 FT pct. 65.3
CHALK TALK No. 1 seed UALR can earn a berth into the Sun Belt Tournament Championship Game with a victory today. ... UALR is 11-0 all-time vs. the Mountaineers.
At a glance
SUN BELT CONFERENCE
At campus sites
Coastal Carolina 63, Arkansas State 49
S. Alabama 73, Louisiana-Lafayette 61
At Lakefront Arena
Appalachian St. 78, Coastal Carolina 42
South Alabama 68, Texas State 67
Appalachian State 47, Georgia State 45
South Alabama 87, Troy 74
All times Central
UALR vs. Appalachian St., 11:30 a.m.
Texas-Arlington vs. S. Alabama, 2 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 11 a.m.
Ronjanae DeGray is averaging 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which will play Appalachian State in its Sun Belt Conference tournament opener at 11:30 a.m. today in New Orleans.
Sports on 03/15/2019
Print Headline: UALR women ready for defense