NEW ORLEANS, La. (3/7/17) – The No. 11 seed Arkansas State women’s basketball team defeated the No. 6 seed Georgia Southern with a 61-54 victory in the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference Championship Tournament at Lakefront Arena.
A-State advances to take on No. 3 Troy Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The game will air on 95.3FM The Ticket and will be broadcast on ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN App.
The Red Wolves were led by freshman Jada Ford’s 23 points, while fellow freshman Starr Taylor added 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Lauren Bradshaw grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, while Ford’s five steals also set a career-high.
With the win, A-State improved its overall record to 7-24 on the season and 26-25 all-time in the SBC Tournament. It also marked the fourth straight year that the squad has won a game in the tournament.
Angel McGowan led Georgia Southern with 19 points, while Sierra Buttler finished with 11.
A-State shot 33.9 percent from the field, but went 17-of-22 (77.3 percent) from the free throw line, including a 9-of-10 mark down the stretch to help close out the win. Georgia Southern shot 31.6 percent from the field, but lost the battle on the boards 48-34 and allowed the Red Wolves to score 24 points in the paint. The Eagles also failed to take advantage of the Red Wolves’ 19 turnovers and finished with just 15 off those miscues.
How It Happened (First Half):
Arkansas State used a 7-0 run to build a 12-6 advantage late in the first quarter to take a lead it would not relinquish in the first half. Jada Ford started the run with a 3-pointer to give the Red Wolves their first lead of the night, while Lauren Bradshaw capped the run with a stick back.
The Eagles struggled to make shots in the first half after starting the game 1-of-15 from the field. They shot just 21 percent from the field, but kept the score close thanks to 13 turnovers in the first half by the Red Wolves.
A-State never gave up the lead in the half, but Georgia Southern got within a point twice before the Red Wolves opened up a five point advantage at 20-15 with 2:18 to go in the half after a jumper by Starr Taylor, but Georgia Southern closed the gap to 23-20 at the break.
Taylor had nine points and three rebounds in the first half to pace Arkansas State, while Bradshaw added four points and seven rebounds.
How It Happened (Second Half):
Georgia Southern opened the third quarter with a quick flurry of shots and took a 35-31 at the first media timeout, but the Red Wolves responded with a 14-0 run out of the timeout led by a huge quarter from Jada Ford.
Ford scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the period thanks to a 3-of-4 mark from beyond the arc. Her two free throws with 3:09 to go put A-State up 43-35 and Starr Taylor made it a 10-point game when got a steal and a layup.
Despite the hot quarter, the Red Wolves led by just six at the end of the frame after both teams shot over 45 percent from the field in the period.
The Eagles cut the lead down to 45-44 with 8:31 to go in the game, but Ford hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to four points and Bradshaw followed with two free throws to go up 50-44 with 6:46 remaining.
Georgia Southern answered with a quick run get within 50-48, but A-State outscored the Eagles 12-6 over the final five minutes to close out the game. A-State was aided by an outstanding at the free throw, going a 9-of-10 to help seal the deal.
The final blow came when Taylor got a steal with 35 seconds left to put A-State up 60-50. Fowler added 1-of-2 free throws 10 seconds later, before the Eagles scores the final four points with under 14 seconds to go.
It feels good to get the first win here. I am proud of the team and the way the battle the while game. The thing that stands out to me is the third quarter because Georgia Southern made that run and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to take there. We had really struggled in third quarters of late. That’s one of those runs where we have struggled with that throughout the year. It was really neat to see us respond the right way. Individually, Jada offensively was successful against their zone. Starr Taylor was really good early on with her pressure and our rebounding kept them from getting good opportunities.
Lauren Bradshaw grabbed a career-high 13 points.
Jada Ford finished with a career-high 5 five steals.
Ford also scored 14 points in the third quarter and went over 20 points in a game for the eighth time this season.
A-State’s 14-0 run was its largest run of the season during a single quarter.
A-State’s 48 rebounds were the most in any game this season.
Madison Heckert narrowly missed tying career-highs in both rebounds and blocks. She finished with seven rebounds and three blocks, missing her career mark by one in each category.
A-State advances to take on No. 3 Troy Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The game will air on 95.3FM The Ticket and will be broadcast on ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN App.SBC Tournament Day 1