The #19 Women's Bouncy Ball team hosted the #10 Oregon Ducks at Reed Arena on Thursday night in the semifinals of the preseason WNIT.
The Ags got off to a fast start and led by 9 at one point in the first quarter. Oregon was turning the ball over. Khaalia had Chenney were scoring. The Ducks fought back to within 3 after Carter went to the bench with 2 fouls, finding their bigs in the lane for layups, but Danni Williams scored with 3 seconds to go to make it a 5 point lead.
Although the lead was just 5, Blair went to his bench in the second quarter. N'Dea Jones, Kayla Wells, and Lulu McKinney started the second quarter and Emer Nichols came off the bench early to allow the coaches to talk to Khaalia. After the Ducks tied it up at 20 with 6:24 left in the half, Blair put Carter back in the game with 2 fouls. The two teams traded the lead but once again, Danni Williams scored late to give the Ags a 6 point lead going into the break.
Despite the lead, there were warning signs. A&M was shooting just 41.2% vs 46.4% for the Ducks. The leading scorer on the season, Sabrina Ionescu, had been shut out and Oregon, which shoots the 3 very well was just 1-8 in the half. The Ags were also helped by turnovers. Their heralded freshman, Satou Sabally, turned it over 4 times in 4 minutes and went to the bench for the rest of the game.
It took less than 2 minutes for Oregon to erase the halftime lead. A pair of Hebard layups were sandwiched around a 3 pointer by Lexi Bando. The teams went back and forth for the next few minutes but the tide turned after Ionescu broke the scoring ice with a layup with 4:57 left to cut an A&M lead to 1. It turned into a 4 point play when she rebounded her own missed FT and was fouled. 2 FTs gave Oregon the lead. After the 42 all tie between FTs, the Ducks would outscore the Ags 15 to 7, and this time it was Oregon who hit a dagger with 3 seconds left before the buzzer.
The Ducks would stretch the lead in the final period but the Ags didn't quit. Hebard went to the bench with her 4th foul with 7:43 left and an 11 point lead. After a 3 by Anelli Maley made it 67-54, the Ags ramped up the defensive pressure and cut the lead to 5 on back to back 3s by Lulu and Danni. On the next inbounds play, the crowd went wild when it looked like Anriel Howard had stolen the inbounds pass. But the ref had blown a foul on Anriel. Hebard, who had reentered, got a layup and the Ags were forced to try to steal and foul. A late miss by Carter allowed Ionescu to get her second straight triple double by grabbing the rebound and add to her assist total by feeding Oti Gildon for a fast break layup.
Oregon came into the game averaging 100.5 points per game. Their first half pace was well below that but they scored 55 in the second half.
The better team was Oregon and they showed their experience with five starters back. We made the game chaotic in the first half. We overcame some foul problems and we had all of the momentum and the ball to start the second half but you cannot win a ballgame at this level unless you have an inside game. Tonight we had no inside game. We'll learn from this. Give Sabrina (Ionescu) a lot of credit. When an All-American is not having her best shooting [game], she fills up the stat sheet. That's what All-Americans do. We lost transition threes in the second half after stopping them in the first half. When we had a chance to build that lead in the first half, we didn't stretch it out like we could have."
"This is going to be a win-win situation for both teams. They won the game, we won because we played a team of this caliber and we'll get better in the film room, then get better on the practice floor. We've got a lot of other teams at this level coming in and we will get better.
-- Coach Blair
Ionescu embodied the cliche of a player letting the game come to them. I thought Jasmine Lumpkin did a phenomenal job defending Ionescu in the first half, but Ionescu still had 7 assists before the break.
Overall, it was an exciting game and if I wasn’t as invested in the Ags I think analyzing how Oregon runs their offense would be interesting. I was disappointed in the loss, but shared Blair’s feeling that this will provide a lot of material for the coaches to make the Ags stronger in the long run. And we’ll get to measure the progress before Xmas when we see the Ducks again in Las Vegas.
The loss means the Ags are off this Sunday while Oregon goes to Louisville for the preseason WNIT championship game. The Ags are off until right before Thanksgiving.
- Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans
- Wed Nov 22, 2017 6PM CST
- Reed Arena
- Streaming: SECN+ Radio: 1150AM/102.7 FM
UALR is coached by Blair's old friend Joe Foley. Foley and Blair have been trading places on the total wins list for active coaches. Foley currently has 746; Blair has 741. Last season the Ags won 55-37 in a game I only listened to on the radio. The Trojans graduated two starters from our last meeting, including the leading scorer, Kaitlyn Pratt. So far the Trojans are 1-1 with both games at home.
- #0 6-0 Jr F Ronjanae DeGray started 28/34 games last year.
- #2 5-6 Sr G Monique Townson had 8 vs the Ags in 2016
- #235-9 So G Kyra Collier started last year vs the Ags and is currently leading the Trojans in scoring.
- #33 6-1 Gr Keanna Keys sat out last year with an injury. She was either a starter or 6th woman in 2015-16
#5 5-7 Fr G Tori Lasker is averaging 14 poinnts and 3.5 assists. She had 21 in the opening win.