LITTLE ROCK - Despite seeing a large first-half lead nearly completely evaporate, the UALR women's basketball team held on to grab a hard-fought 64-58 win against Georgia State in the Jack Stephens Center on Wednesday night.
The Trojans (16-11, 11-6 Sun Belt) were holding a 60-56 lead against the Panthers (12-17, 8-9) with less than half a minute to go and the shot clock running down when the ball found Taylor Ford on the left wing. Just as she did against Texas State on Jan. 22, the senior coolly knocked down a dagger three to secure the win.
Georgia State had been down by as many as 14 points in the first half thanks to a 20-0 UALR run, and the Panthers trailed by double figures in the second half as well. But they pulled as close as two points with five minutes left and did not go away until the final minute when Ford's 3-point sealed the game for good.
A hot night from freshman Keanna Keys, who posted a career-best 13 points and eight rebounds, led four Trojans in double figures. Taylor Gault added 17 off the bench to top all scorers while Shanity James had 14 points, six rebounds and a career-best four steals while Ford did it all with 11 points, seven assists and six boards.
With 4:47 remaining and the Trojans clinging to a 51-49 lead, James hit a layup and drew a foul. She missed the free throw, but as she did all night, Keys grabbed the offensive rebound - one of her seven. Sharde' Collins finished the possession with a floater to take the lead out to six. Georgia State scored on its next possession to cut it to four before Collins knocked down a momentum-shifting three to give UALR a 60-53 lead with 2:52 left on the game clock.
That cushion would disappear as Georgia State scored the next four points with come within 3 with 55 seconds left. But on the Trojans' next possession, Collins air-balled a layup that landed in James' hands. With five seconds left on the shot clock, she found Ford for the 3-pointer that effectively ended the contest.
UALR remains unbeaten at the Jack Stephens Center in conference play this season, moving to 8-0 with the victory. The Trojans also evened their lifetime series with the Panthers at 1-1 and extended their home winning streak to nine games.
The Panthers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the early moments of the game on two 3-pointers from Kendra Long. After trailing 17-11, the Trojans erupted with a 20-0 run that spanned nearly six minutes, their largest run of the season. Gault's steal-and-score with nine minutes in the first half gave the Trojans their first lead of the night at 18-17, and the lead ballooned to 31-17 with 5:02 remaining as the Trojans capped off their run.
Keys was the focal point of the Trojans' comeback. The freshman tied career highs with 11 points and five rebounds-all offensive-in the game's first 12 minutes alone. Gault scored 10 off the bench and Ford added six points and five assists in the half.
But Georgia State held UALR scoreless over the final five minutes and went on a 9-0 run of its own to enter halftime down only five at 31-26.
James picked up where Keys left off in the early minutes of the second half, scoring the Trojans' first six points. Keys then added a layup to push the lead back into double digits at 39-28 and set a new career high in points. The Panthers clawed right back and kept it within 10 the rest of the half.
Collins finished the game with seven points. The team was 1-of-8 from 3-point land before making its final two attempts. UALR outshot Georgia State 47.5 percent to 44.9 percent and won the turnover battle by 11. The turnover margin allowed the Trojans to attempt 12 more shots than their opponent. Despite being outrebounded by seven, UALR had 14 offensive rebounds and outscored Georgia State 20-11 in second-chance points.
During the game, Ford recorded her 400th career assist. Gault moved to sole possession of sixth all-time at UALR with her 101st career 3-pointer, and Sharde' Collins got the 50th rebound of her young career.
The Trojans are back in action on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. when they look to close out the home conference schedule undefeated. Their opponent will be ULM who they defeated 63-47 in Monroe, La., on Feb. 15.
Patrick Newton: Associate Director of Communications