Around the Sun Belt Conference
The final week of the regular season is upon us and it should be a good one as there are several teams still fighting for a berth in the tournament and others jockying for position in next week’s championship. UALR claimed the regular season title on Saturday after defeating the UT Arlington Mavericks. The Trojans are 17-2 with one game to play and will be the top seed in the tournament. The outright regular season championship was a program first and the 17 conference wins also tied a school record. The 24 wins on the season are the most for the Trojans since the 2012-13 season.
Continuing their hot streak are the Trojans of Troy. Troy has won seven consecutive games dating back to Feb. 5, which was their last conference setback. This week the Trojans can close out the season with an eighth straight victory as they take on the South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday. In Troy’s two wins last week, senior forward Ronita Garrett posted back-to-back double-doubles for the Trojans and earned herself Sun Belt Women’s Basketball Player of the Week honors. Garrett’s play lifted the Trojans to wins over Texas State and Georgia State and improved their record to 19-9. The 19 wins are the most for a Trojan team since the 1996-97 seasons when they went 23-7 and a berth into the tournament. The 14 conference wins are also a program record.
Garrett averaged 20.5 points per game last week and has tallied 20 double-doubles on the season which ranks first in the Sun Belt and sixth overall in the NCAA. She ranks fourth in the SBC in scoring (16.1) and first in rebounds at 11.1 per game. This is her second Player of the Week honor as she previously claimed the award on January 19 and also gives Troy back-to-back Player of the Week winners as Garrett’s teammate, Ashley Beverly-Kelley, took home the honor last week.
The regular season wraps up on Saturday, March 7 with the top eight teams in the league advancing to next week’s tournament to be held in New Orleans, La. Tournament action begins on Wednesday, March 11 at 11:30 a.m. CT and continues Thursday with the semifinals and concludes with Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN3. All seven of the women’s tournament games can be seen on ESPN3.
Week 17 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week
Ronita Garrett (Troy, Senior, Forward)
Ronita Garrett posted two more double-doubles as Troy extended the league’s longest active winning streak to seven games. Garrett opened the week with 24 points and 12 rebounds at Texas State, earning her seventh 20-point game of the season. Then, on her 21st birthday, the senior posted 17 points and 10 rebounds in her final home game at Trojan Arena, helping Troy to a season sweep of Georgia State. She also posted four steals in each game. For the week, Garrett averaged 20.5 points per game and 11.0 rebounds per game. On the season, Garrett now has 20 double-doubles, by far the most in the Sun Belt and the sixth most in the NCAA. The McCormick, S.C., native ranks fourth in the Sun Belt in scoring at 16.1 points per game and first in rebounding at 11.1 rebounds per game. Garrett also ranks third in the conference in steals with 2.4 steals per game.
Previous Player of the Week
11.18 – Ka’Nesheia Cobbins, UALR
11.25 – Maryah Sydnor, Appalachian State
12.02 – Kaitlyn Pratt, UALR
12.09 – Caitlyn Ramirez
12.16 – Taylor Gault, UALR
01.05 – Aundrea Gamble, Arkansas State
01.12 – Aundrea Gamble, Arkansas State
01.19 – Ronita Garrett, Troy
01.26 – Sharnice Brooks, UL Monore
02.02 – Aundrea Gamble, Arkansas State
02.09 – Alisha Andrews, Georgia State
02.16 – Keanna Keys, UALR
02.23 – Ashley Beverly-Kelley, Troy
03.02 – Ronita Garrett, Troy
Thursday, February 19
Troy 99, Georgia Southern 93 (OT)
Georgia State 69, South Alabama 54
UALR 63, Arkansas State 61
UL Lafayette 64, Texas State 41
UT Arlington 55, Appalachian State 45
Saturday, February 21
Arkansas State 69, UL Monroe 61
South Alabama 80, Georgia Southern 63
Georgia State 80, Appalachian State 70
Troy 65, UALR 62
UT Arlington 56, UL Lafayette 42
Thursday, February 26
Appalachian State 66, Georgia Southern 39
Arkansas State 67, UT Arlington 62
Troy 75, Texas State 59
UALR 56, Georgia State 39
UL Monroe 45, South Alabama 38
Saturday, February 28
Appalachian State 80, UL Monroe 61
Troy 88, Georgia State 75
Texas State 83, Arkansas State 74
UL Lafayette 62, Georgia Southern 35
UALR 48, UT Arlington 38
Thursday, March 5
Texas State at Appalachian State * 4:00 PM
UT Arlington at Georgia Southern * 4:00 PM
UALR at UL Lafayette * 5:00 PM
South Alabama at Arkansas State * 5:05 PM
Georgia State at UL Monroe * 5:15 PM
Saturday, March 7
Georgia Southern at Georgia State * 11:00 AM
UT Arlington at Appalachian State * 1:00 PM
Texas State at UL Monroe * 2:00 PM
Troy at South Alabama * 2:05 PM
UL Lafayette at Arkansas State * 3:05 PM
2015 Championship Schedule
Wednesday, March 11 (First Round)
G1: No. 8 Seed vs. No. 1 Seed 11:30 a.m.
G2: No. 5 Seed vs. No. 4 Seed 2:00 p.m.
G3: No. 7 Seed vs. No. 2 Seed 5:00 p.m.
G4: No. 6 Seed vs. No. 3 Seed 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 12 (Semifinals)
G5: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 11:30 a.m.
G6: Winner G3 vs. Winner G4 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 14 (Championship Game)
G7: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6 7:00 p.m.
All women’s games will be broadcast on ESPN3
All times are Central time and subject to change without notice.
Team News and Notes
Appalachian went 2-0 this week to improve to 8-10 in the Sun Belt. The 80-61 win over UL Monroe was an important one as the Apps are now 7th in the conference standings. The last time App State won two-straight games was on Jan. 8 when they notched wins over South Alabama and UL Lafayette. Maryah Sydnor led the team with a double-double this week, averaging 16.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. She ranks third in scoring and third in rebounding in the league this year. The Mountaineers are now 9-4 at home and will host their last two regular-season games at the Holmes Center this weekend against Texas State and UT Arlington.
With a victory at UT Arlington on Saturday, UALR won the Sun Belt regular-season championship outright for the first time in school history and earned the conference tournament’s top seed. The Trojans shared a league regular-season title in 2010 and 2011 and won five division titles in their history, but this is the team’s first time ever claiming the championship all alone. That victory means UALR tied the school record with 17 conference wins. The Trojans have reached 24 wins overall for the first time since 2012-13. The Trojans are second in the nation in scoring defense as of Sunday morning, allowing just 49.9 points per game. UALR held its opponents last week to 39 and 38 points, but this was far from the first time a Joe Foley-coached UALR team has kept the opposition to a point per minute. In his 12 seasons with the team, Joe Foley has held an opponent to 40 points or fewer an incredible 32 times. UALR has now done this six times this season: Twice to UT Arlington,
twice to South Alabama, once at Rice and once to Georgia State.
The Arkansas State women’s basketball team went 1-1 this past week after defeating Texas-Arlington 67-62 at home and falling on the road to Texas State 83-74. With the victory over the Mavericks A-State is a perfect 8-0 at the Convocation Center during Sun Belt Conference play and has a 11-1 overall record in Jonesboro with its only setback coming against Florida Gulf Coast. If Arkansas State can finish out the regular season with a pair of home victories it would mark the sixth time in school history that Arkansas State has lost just one game at home in a season. Aundrea Gamble is just one of three players in the nation (men’s or women’s) to lead her conference in both assists and points per game. On the women’s side Tay’Ler Mingo of Wright St. lead’s the Horizon League in both categories, while Murray State’s Cameron Payne lead’s OVC in both stat lines on the men’s side. She has now moved into A-State’s top-10 all-time assists list with 284 in her career. If the junior
moves into the top-10 on A-State all-time career scoring list she will be just the third player in school history to be in the top-10 on both lists. With just one victory over its final two games A-State can guarantee itself the No. 2 seeding entering the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The Red Wolves have will have two games to try and make that happen starting with a home tilt with South Alabama Thursday at 5 p.m. followed by the regular season finale against Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday at 3.
Senior Anna Claire Knight, who played in her 100th career game at UT Arlington Dec. 30, has 1,297 career points, 561 rebounds and 184 assists. No player in program history has recorded over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists for their career. Knight picked up her 500th career rebound at Texas State Jan. 22. Knight was one of 30 candidates in the country for the Senior Class Award, and the lone candidate from the Sun Belt Conference. Knight was named to the Capital One Academic All-District Team by CoSIDA. Briana Jones’ 37 blocked shots this season is tied for fifth on the Georgia Southern single-season list. The junior has 63 for her career, which is tied for eighth at Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern has one senior and seven freshmen on the roster. Eleven of 15 Eagles on the roster are sophomores or freshmen in eligibility. The Eagles will travel a total of 11,765 miles this season, and a bulk of those – 9,833 to be exact – will be logged traveling to their 10 road
Sun Belt contests. Junior Sierra Kirkland has played in every game in her career (89). Sophomore Angel McGowan surpassed the 500 career point mark with 18 against Arkansas State Feb. 12, and now has 562. She ranks 10th in the league in scoring in conference games with 13.6 a contest. Sophomore Patrice Butler is averaging 13.4 points a game in Sun Belt contests, which ranks 11th in the league. Freshman Abby Hix earned all-tournament honors at the Gator Holiday Classic after averaging 15 points and nailing eight triples in the two games. Hix was named the College Sports Madness Sun Belt Player of the Week Dec. 29 for her performance.
Georgia State now plays its most crucial game of the season on Thursday at UL Monroe…The Panthers are tied with the War Hawks in eighth place for the final tournament position at 7-11…GSU defeated UL Monroe in Atlanta and would clinch that tournament spot by virtue of a sweep that would break a tie-breaker…GSU also holds a tie-breaker now over App State (2-0) should those two somehow end up tied for seventh or eighth-place…But UL Monroe and App State would both have a tie-breaker edge over GSU with a higher-seed opponent beaten if that came into play. GSU had won four of its previous five games, before losing its two road games last week at UALR (23-4) and Troy (19-9) as point guard Alisha Andrews sat out those two with a team rules suspension. Andrews should be back for this final week’s games. Up-tempo GSU has scored 70 or more points 14 times in its 27 games and are No. 4 in scoring (67.3)…The Pant hers’ offensive firepower includes being No. 2 in the Sun Belt in 3-point
baskets made (146, 5.4), No. 2 in 3-point field goal percentage (35.3), No. 2 in free throw percentage (72.9), No. 4 in field goal percentage (41.2) and No. 4 in assists (13.6)…Five different players have made 16 or more 3-point baskets to provide balance. Georgia State’s 3-point shooting with 146 made is third most in school history as they chase the 159 and 168 totals ahead of them. Ponder’s 63 made are tied for second most as she chases the school record of 69 in a season. GSU hits the boards hard to rank second the Sun Belt in rebound advantage (+2.6)…The defense is No. 6 in steals (8.3). Point guard Alisha Andrews’ impressive career numbers continue to mount as she has 1,195 points, 561 assists, 334 rebounds, along with 305 steals, as well as 195 3-point baskets as she closes in on 200 in a fifth category… She has become just the second active women’s player in the NCAA to have the 1,000/500/300/300 totals, joining All-American Brittany Boyd of California…No one in the
NCAA yet has those four, as well as 200 3-point baskets…Andrews leads the Sun Belt in assist/turnover ratio (95-44, +51, 2.2), is averaging 4.8 assists per game (3rd Sun Belt) and is averaging 2.4 steals per game (4th Sun Belt).
Louisiana attempted just eight three-pointers and produced 40 points inside the arc. The Cajuns forced Georgia Southern into 29 turnovers and collected 26 points off those miscues. Keke Veal scored a game-high 20 points while Kia Wilridge joined her in double figures with 12 points to lead the charge for the Ragin’ Cajuns who took sole possession of fifth place in the Sun Belt standings entering the final week of play. Louisiana closed the first half on a 5-2 run to claim a 29-20 advantage. The Cajuns then held the Eagles to 10 points through 5:00 of the second stanza, outscoring them 30-10, to put the game out of reach. The Ragin’ Cajuns reached 10 conference victories for the first time since 2006-07 and the third time since joining the Sun Belt Conference. Louisiana is set to close out its home schedule on Thursday, March 5 hosting Sun Belt-leading UALR (24-4, 17-2 Sun Belt) at 5 p.m. The Cajuns then wrap up the regular season on Saturday, March 7 at Arkansas State (19-9,
14-4 Sun Belt). Veal reached 20 points for the third time in the past four games and finished four off her season high (24 vs. Texas State, Feb. 19). UL forced the opposition into 20-plus turnovers for the 19th time in 27 outings. The Cajuns pressured the Eagles into 18 second half turnovers, generating 17 points off the mistakes in the decisive half.
The Warhawks went 1-1 this past week as a strong defensive effort lifted them over South Alabama on Thursday before they fell to Appalachian State on Saturday. The ULM defense held South Alabama to 22.6 percent from the field, 20.0 percent from beyond the arc and 50.0 percent from the free throw line. The Warhawks also out rebounded the Jaguars 50-40, which was the seventh time this season that ULM has out rebounded their opponent by double-figures. Freshman Daja Chase collected her first career double-double against USA with 12 points and 10 rebounds. This was the first time a freshman garnered a double-double since ULM joined the Sun Belt Conference. Sharnice Brooks chipped in 10 points against South Alabama for her 20th double-digit scoring effort this season. Olivia Countiss and Alayshia Hunter led the team on Saturday at Appalachian State. Countiss scored 12 points, while Hunter had nine points and grabbed 12 rebounds. ULM will play again on Thursday as they host Georgia
State at 5:15 p.m. in Fant-Ewing Coliseum.
South Alabama dropped its only game this week, falling 45-38 at home to Louisiana-Monroe. The game marked the third time this season that USA has been held below 40 points and the 15th time the Jags have scored 54 points or fewer. The meeting between South Alabama and Louisiana-Monroe marked the 20th in the all-time series between the two programs. South Alabama holds a 12-8 advantage in the series. The Jaguars hold a 7-3 lead in games played in Mobile. The Jaguar women wore pink uniforms for just the fifth time in the program’s history against the Warhawks. The game was the program’s annual “Pink Game”. USA holds a 3-2 record in those uniforms. Freshman center Chyna Ellis recorded a career-high six blocks and passed former Jag LaSandra Jenkins (1981-82) for first-place on the program’s freshman single-season mark. Ellis – who now has 51 blocks this season – also ranks seventh on USA’s overall single-season blocks chart. The Cordova, Tenn., native posted her sixth
double-double of the season – second-straight – with 14 points and 13 rebounds. The 13 rebounds also tied a career-best for Ellis. Marquita Daniels ended the night just outside double figures with nine points, but did move into a tie with Stephanie Richardson for third-place on South Alabama’s freshman steals list. Daniels now has 45 steals this season, one behind Jessica Webb (46) who sits in second-place. USA’s leading scorer at 15.9 points per game, Breanna Hall, was held to just four points on 2-of-12 shooting. Hall, who entered the game leading the Sun Belt in three-point shooting and ranked 13th nationally, was 0-for-7 from beyond the arc in the loss. It was just the third time this season that she has not made a three-pointer. South Alabama will now break for a week before traveling to Arkansas State on Thu., March 5. Tip-off versus the Red Wolves is set for 5:05 p.m. at the Convocation Center. It will be the final road game of the season for USA.
UT Arlington went toe-to-toe with the Sun Belt’s best during the week, falling just short in each as UTA strives to reach the postseason for the first time under coach Krista Gerlich. The Lady Mavs are just a win away from clinching a position in the tournament. UTA was able to overcome a 14-point deficit against Arkansas State on Thursday, eventually taking a 55-54 lead in the contest before the Red Wolves pulled away late to hold off the charge. Freshman Cierra Johnson scored a team-high 17 points to tie her season high. On Saturday, UTA found itself in a defensive battle on the team’s senior night as the league’s best two teams in terms of scoring defense met at College Park Center. UTA would not let UALR pull too far away during the contest and had the Trojans within three points with three minutes left in the game. However, it was experience that made the difference as UALR was able to score the game’s final five points. Freshman Rebekah Van Dijk earned her 14th
double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Lady Mavs conclude their season on the road needing just one win to wrap up a position in the tournament. UTA faces Georgia Southern and Appalachian State.
The Texas State women’s basketball team earned one of the biggest victories in recent memory this past Saturday as it defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves by a score of 83-74. Texas State captured the lead from the beginning and never looked back as the Bobcats improved to 16-11 overall and 11-7 in the Sun Belt Conference. Erin Peoples led the Bobcats with 17 points while Ayriel Anderson and Taeler Deer each added 16 for Texas State. The Bobcats will now conclude regular season play this upcoming weekend, beginning with Appalachian State Thursday evening. The Bobcats defeated the Mountaineers in the first meeting of the season in San Marcos. Texas State will then wrap up the trip with a contest against UL Monroe, a team that the Bobcats also defeated at Strahan Coliseum. Texas State finished the home season averaging the most fans in the Sun Belt Conference with a mark of 1,977 people.
The Trojans (19-9, 14-5) won a pair of games this week and has now won seven straight games. Troy started the week with a 75-59 win at Texas State and finished with an 88-75 win over Georgia State at home. Troy is now in third place in the Sun Belt standings, just half a game behind second place Arkansas State. The Trojans are guaranteed at least the No. 3 seed at next week’s Sun Belt Championships, but could move up to second with a win in Saturday’s regular season finale and two losses by Arkansas State this week. The Trojans have now won 19 games this season, the most for the program since the 1996-97 NCAA Tournament team went 23-7. Troy’s 14 Sun Belt wins this season has set the program record for conference wins in a season, also held by the 1996-97 team that went 13-3 in Mid-Continent Conference play. Troy is now one win away from posting the fourth 20-win season in the program’s 40-year history. Ronita Garrett posted two double-doubles on the week, giving her five
straight and 20 double-doubles on the season. The 20 double-doubles lead the Sun Belt and rank sixth in the NCAA. The Trojan forward ranks fourth in the Sun Belt in scoring (16.1 ppg), first in rebounding (11.1 rpg) and third in steals (2.4 spg). Garrett’s 20 double-doubles are the most in a single-season in Troy’s Division I history. She is also the first player in Troy’s Division I history to post five straight double-doubles, and she has done so twice this season. Ashley Beverly-Kelley scored in double-figures in both of Troy’s games, putting her scoring average at 17.6 points per game, the second best mark in the Sun Belt. The junior is averaging 19.7 points per game in Sun Belt play, the most in the conference. Along with ranking second in scoring, she also ranks ninth in the Sun Belt in assists and fourth in steals. Beverly-Kelley is the only Sun Belt player to rank in the top 10 in all three. This week the Trojans close their regular season with a road contest at South
Alabama on Saturday. Troy will be looking for a 20-win season, and possibly the No. 2 seed at the Sun Belt Championships.
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