JONESBORO — Arkansas State is giving the top teams in Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball a tough time, even in a shorthanded state.
Only eight players suited up Thursday night for the Red Wolves and just seven saw playing time in a fast-paced contest with Texas-Arlington. ASU stayed in the game until UTA came up with a steal in the closing seconds to seal a 90-87 victory.
Interim head coach Destinee Rogers said the Red Wolves – who were outscored 50-41 in the second half – wore down a little in the fourth quarter, but she praised her team’s fight.
“I think the thing that we’ve shown the last two games in playing two of the top teams in the conference is that we’re right there. We’re right there and we’re proving that we’re just as good as anybody,” Rogers said. “We had our chances. We’ve just got to continue to learn, and we’ve got to continue to try to figure out how to win games late, down the stretch.”
The Red Wolves (10-10, 3-4 Sun Belt) will have another opportunity this afternoon as Texas State (9-11, 4-4 Sun Belt) visits First National Bank Arena. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.
ASU has played only seven players in each of its last two games, going back to last Saturday’s 79-72 loss at Troy. Junior guard Keya Patton is out for the season with a knee injury and freshman guard Jade Upshaw is currently sidelined with a foot injury.
“We’re being hit with adversity, but I’m just proud of my team for not giving up. I’m proud of my team for fighting and for continuing to believe,” Rogers said. “We’ve just got to clean up a couple of errors that we’re making toward the end of the ballgame, but I can promise you this team is learning early and when we get to March, we get to the tournament and we’re faced with these situations, I can promise you they’re going to handle it a lot better because they’re learning so much right now.”
Junior guard Jireh Washington and senior guard Morgan Wallace both played all 40 minutes Thursday night. Freshman guards Mailyn Wilkerson and Lauryn Pendleton both played 35-plus minutes, while junior forward Trinitee Jackson was on the court more than 25 minutes in spite of foul trouble.
Washington scored 28 points while hitting 10-of-14 shots from the field. Wallace recorded a triple-double, the first for an ASU player since Rudy Sims achieved the feat against Louisiana-Lafayette in December 2006, by producing 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Wallace was quick to credit her teammates for helping her finish with a triple-double.
“I would say shout out to my teammates, because without them, I wouldn’t have gotten it,” she said. “I think the 10 assists is what really speaks volumes for my teammates. Yeah, I got them the open shots, but they knocked them down.”
Jackson scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds; Wilkerson finished with 12 points; and Pendleton added 11 points.
Wallace has played all 40 minutes for three consecutive games.
“There were a couple of times that I looked out there and I kept saying, ‘I need to give Jireh and Mo a break.’ They both played 40 minutes,” Rogers said. “Mo has been playing forever, she’s beat up. Jireh is coming back off of an injury and that’s tough for her. They just know that I trust them. They know that I’m going to ride with them until the wheels fall off and then we have to figure out how to walk.”
While ASU shot 51.6 percent from the field, it wasn’t enough as UTA (12-5, 6-2 Sun Belt) shot 55.2 percent. The Lady Mavs shot 63.6 percent (21 of 37) in the second half, driving to the basket and using a height advantage to score 38 of their 50 points in the paint over the last two quarters.
Starr Jacobs, a 6-2 forward who leads the Sun Belt in scoring, produced a team-high 32 points for UTA. Four more Lady Mavs scored in double figures.
ASU led 46-40 at halftime, only to see UTA roar back to tie the game at 67 to end the third quarter. The Lady Mavs took a 76-69 lead on a 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter.
The Red Wolves battled back to tie the game, only to see the Lady Mavs take the lead for good at 86-83 on De’Sha Benjamin’s 3-pointer with 2:21 remaining. Down three points, ASU had the ball after Jackson’s steal with 10 seconds to go, but the Lady Mavs stole the ball on an inbound play and ran out the clock.
Texas State outlasted UALR 69-65 in triple overtime Thursday. Senior forward Da’Nasia Hood, who averages 17.3 points per game, scored 30 points for the Bobcats.
“It’s another game that we feel like we can compete in,” Rogers said. “We’re going to prepare that way and we’re going to show up Saturday ready to roll.”