JONESBORO, Ark. (1/13/18) – A season-high five Arkansas State women’s basketball players scored in double figures, including sophomore guard Starr Taylor with a career-high 20 points, and junior guard Akasha Westbrook registered her third double-double this season to lead the Red Wolves’ to an 85-80 victory over Sun Belt Conference preseason favorite UT Arlington Saturday afternoon at First National Bank Arena.
A-State, which improved to 8-0 in games immediately following a loss this season, ran its overall record to 9-8 and moved its Sun Belt record to 4-2. The Red Wolves also improved their home record to 6-3, while UTA now stands 8-9 overall and 2-4 in league games.
The Red Wolves set new season highs for points, field goals made (32) and field goal percentage (.516). In addition to Taylor’s career-best scoring night, Westbrook scored 18 points, Lauren Bradshaw posted 17, Tahlon Hopkins recorded a season-high 12 and Payton Tennison added 11.
Westbrook also led the squad on the boards with a career-high 11 rebounds, while Taylor posted a season-high five, Tennison a career-best five and Bradshaw hauled down five as well. Making just her sixth start this season, Tennison also handed out a game-high and career-best seven assists.
Rebekah VanDijk had a monster night for the Mavericks, recording 31 points and 18 rebounds. She hit 11-of-12 shots from the floor, helping the squad finish with a .475 shooting percentage. Not only did A-State finish with a higher field goal percentage, it also outrebounded UTA 37-30 and dished out five more assists, 17 to 12.
How It Happened (First Half):
UT Arlington built a 17-12 advantage with 2:44 to play in the first quarter, but a 3-pointer by Taylor just before the first quarter buzzer saw the Red Wolves hold a 19-17 lead after 10 minutes of play. The 3-pointer was part of a 9-0 run that bled into the second quarter and a 20-6 spurt that saw the Red Wolves lead 32-23 midway through the second frame. A-State pushed the advantage to 13, 40-27, with 1:45 to play in the half, but the Mavericks closed on a 7-0 run to trim the halftime lead to 40-34 for the Red Wolves.
Bradshaw provided 11 points in the first half, all coming in the second quarter, while Tennison scored or assisted on each of the first 12 points for A-State. Westbrook provided eight first half points along with five rebounds and four assists while Taylor also had eight points.
The Red Wolves shot 49 percent (16-33) from the floor, hitting 3-of-8 (38 percent) from 3-point range. UT Arlington knocked down 48 percent (14-29), but hit only 1-of-4 (25 percent) beyond the arc. A-State posted an 18-16 advantage on the glass and a 20-18 edge in paint points.
How It Happened (Second Half):
The Mavericks’ Aysia Evans hit a three to start the second half and extended their run to 10 points, closing the gap to 40-37 early. However, the Red Wolves responded with 7-0 run on a pair of layups by Westbrook and Hopkins and a three by Tennison to push their lead back to 10 points, 47-37, with 6:56 remaining in the third period.
Arkansas State’s lead swelled back to 13 points on two different occasions in the period and it entered the final quarter with a 63-51 advantage. Taylor opened the scoring in the fourth by hitting a jumper that gave A-State its largest lead of the day, 65-51.
Still leading 68-55 with 8:24 left in the game, the Mavericks went on a 17-5 run to cut its deficit to only one point, 73-72, at the 3:43 mark. VanDijk was responsible for eight points during the run and scored 16 points in the period to make it close down the stretch.
A-State never gave up the lead, but still led by only one point, 81-80, with 17 seconds remaining after a VanDijk layup. Hopkins hit a pair of huge free throws on A-State’s next trip the court and Westbrook sealed the victory with a steal on the Mavericks’ ensuing possession. She missed a shot on the fast break, but Taylor was there for a rebound and put-back to set the final score.
Arkansas State ran its all-time record versus UTA to 15-6 in the series that dates back to the 1982-83 series.
A-State set season highs for points (85), field goals made (32) and field goal percentage (.516). The last time A-State shot higher than 50 percent in a game was versus UT Martin (50%) this season (Nov. 21).
The Red Wolves had a season-high five players score in double figures, marking the first time since playing Troy in last season’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament (March 2, 2017).
The Red Wolves improved to 8-0 in games immediately following a loss this season. A-State entered the game coming off a 67-55 setback against Texas State.
Arkansas State got more points from its bench than the opponent’s reserves for the 12th time this year.
A-State improved to 8-1 this year when it has at least three players score in double figures. The Red Wolves also saw their record improve to 8-1 this year when it scores at least 70 points.
The Red Wolves scored 32 points off 19 turnovers by the Mavericks, marking the sixth time this season it has scored at least 20 off its’ opponents miscues. They are 6-0 in those games.
Junior guard Akasha Westbrook scored in double figures (18) for the ninth consecutive game, 14th time this season and 17th outing of her career. With a career-high 11 rebounds, Westbrook also notched her third double-double this season. She also tied her career high for steals with six and finished the game one assist shy of her career-high five.
Senior forward Lauren Bradshaw finished with 17 points, marking the seventh time this season, including five of the last six games, she has score in double figures.
Sophomore guard Starr Taylor recorded a career-high 20 points, topping her previous high of 17 scored against Appalachian State on Jan. 5, 2017. She also finished the outing with a season-high five rebounds.
Sophomore guard Payton Tennison made her sixth start this season and responded with 11 points, a career-high seven assists and career-best five rebounds. She scored in double figures for the fourth time this year and sixth time of her career.
Sophomore forward Tahlon Hopkins scored a season-high 12 points, while also recording four rebounds that matched her third highest total in a game this year. Her two assists tied her season high.
Quoting Coach Boyer:
“I’m proud of the team for the effort today, especially after Thursday night, and our message yesterday during practice was to just erase it and I thought out players did that. Tahlon Hopkins was great tonight and she hit those two free throws late and that was fitting because she was a game changer from the very beginning from when she checked in.”
“I thought Payton Tennison had a great state line, not only with the points but the seven assists also and just one turnover and really did a lot of good things for us. I’m proud of Lauren too because that is a battle against one of the best post players not only in the Sun Belt but in the country and 17 points in 34 minutes is a lot to ask of her and I thought she handled it really well.”
Arkansas State begins a three-game road trip on Saturday, Jan. 20, at Little Rock. Game time is slated for 3:00 p.m. at the Jack Stephens Center.