JONESBORO — Arkansas State has managed to take the lead in the fourth quarter or in overtime in most games since losing point guard Jireh Washington to a season-ending injury.
The Red Wolves just haven’t been able to keep it.
ASU has been blown out only once in a six-game losing streak that began in the Jan. 22 game where the Red Wolves lost Washington to a knee injury. They rallied from 16 points down in that contest to lead in overtime before losing to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Since then, twice against UL Lafayette and once against Texas-Arlington, ASU has led three games in the fourth quarter before the opponent made a decisive surge. And while the Red Wolves did not move in front during the final period of last weekend’s first game at UL Lafayette, they stayed close before eventually losing by three points.
When asked if that’s more encouraging or frustrating, second-year ASU women’s basketball coach Matt Daniel struck an optimistic note.
“It’s super encouraging. We haven’t recruited and had enough time to develop the depth that we need,” Daniel said. “Last year we go to Louisiana-Lafayette and they beat us 40. We played them four games this year, we’re up in three of them and we’ve lost by an average of seven in four games. We’re close and we’re just getting started.”
The Red Wolves (9-7, 4-6 Sun Belt) hope to shed their losing streak this weekend as they face rival Arkansas-Little Rock (10-7, 6-4 Sun Belt). Today’s game at First National Bank Arena is scheduled for 5 p.m., followed by Saturday’s game in Little Rock at 2 p.m.
While ASU is still trying to adjust to Washington’s absence, UALR has moved on after losing its top two scorers early in conference play.
Bre’Amber Scott and Brianna Crane averaged 18.0 and 14.1 points, respectively, before opting out after nine games. Joe Foley’s Trojans have bounced back to win four of their last five games, including last weekend’s sweep of Texas State at the Stephens Center.
“That train keeps rolling. Any time Coach Foley is coaching a team, they’re going to be well-prepared, they’re going to be tough and hard-nosed,” Daniel said. “They’re winning ballgames, it’s not like they’re dropping games. We’re not going to prepare any differently.”
Ky’lie Scott, a sophomore guard who did not score in UALR’s first nine games, has averaged 13 points per game over the last eight. Teal Battle, a senior forward, has averaged 12.5 points over the last eight games to lift her season average to 11.9 points per game.
Krystan Vornes, a 6-2 senior center from Osceola, is adding 9.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. The Trojans also feature the Sun Belt assists leader in 5-3 junior guard Mayra Caicedo, who is averaging 7.1 per game.
Typical of Foley’s teams, the Trojans are stingy on the defensive end, holding opponents to 55.4 points per game.
“When you walk out of your apartment coming to the arena, you better make sure they’re not there picking you up man to man,” Daniel said. “He just does a great job, but we’re trying to win games, too, and we’re trying to do things that have never been done here. We’re battling as hard as I’ve ever seen a team battle, as any team I’ve ever coached. We’re playing that hard, we’ve just got to play a little bit better.”
ASU had a game-tying 3-pointer wiped out on a three-second violation in last Friday’s 52-49 loss at UL Lafayette. The next day, the Red Wolves began the fourth quarter with a four-point lead before being outscored 28-12 on the way to a 73-61 loss.
Guard Jada Stinson has averaged 16 points over the last four games for ASU, lifting her season average to 12.6 per game. Forward Peyton Martin is averaging 11.4 points for the season after putting up 13.3 per game over the last six.
Tonight’s game was pushed back from Wednesday because of the threat of inclement weather. With a home makeup game with Louisiana-Monroe scheduled for Monday, the Red Wolves have three games in four days before turning their attention to a Feb. 19-20 trip to Texas State.