Little Rock Athletics
Patrick Walsh, Associate Director of Communications
MOBILE – Milestone victories are always memorable and it will be hard for Joe Foley to forget this one. Little Rock shot a season-high 56.9 percent from the field, ended a four-game skid and rallied from an early deficit in a 69-58 win over South Alabama Saturday afternoon.
Teal Battle and Tori Lasker each scored 16 points to lead the Trojans with Battle scoring in the paint while Lasker was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Kyra Collier added 14 points for the Maroon and Silver. Little Rock’s shooting percentage did not dip below 50 percent throughout the entire game.
More than just securing Joe Foley‘s 800th career victory, Little Rock (11-15, 9-6 Sun Belt) claimed a pivotal win in Sun Belt play. The Trojans were tied with South Alabama (13-14, 8-7) entering the game but remain in fourth place in the league standings, tied with Louisiana. The third and fourth seeds will host the first two rounds of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on March 10 and 11.
“I’m more relived that we played the game the way it should be played,” Trojans Head Coach Joe Foley said on his 800th career win. “We moved the ball extremely well on offense and shot it well. That is what this team needs. I’m relieved nobody is going to ask me about 800 anymore. I’m tired. It is two good things happening today but most importantly our kids got their confidence.”
Initially, the milestone win was anything but guaranteed. South Alabama, coming off a dominating win over Arkansas State, kept that momentum going early in the game as the led by as much as six (31-25) midway through the second quarter. But a Jaguar missed 3-pointer, followed by a foul then a media timeout tempered that home enthusiasm.
Little Rock began to chip away at that lead following the media timeout and the momentum swung into the Trojans’ favor entering halftime as Lasker hit back-to-back treys in the final minute, turning a three-point deficit into a three-point lead for Little Rock at halftime.
“They got a little bit of a lead on us but I thought when we came back on them it showed our character,” Foley said of his team. “Our kids were ready to fight. It gave them confidence and from that point on, I thought we controlled the game.”
The Trojans kept hold of that momentum to start the second half and never trailed after intermission. Little Rock prevented the Jaguars from scoring a field goal for nearly five minutes in the third quarter and led by as much as 11 following a pair of free throws by Battle. But South Alabama was not done. The Jags went on a 7-0 run and cut the Trojan lead to four as time waned in the third quarter before Angelique Francis stole the ball and raced down the court for a fastbreak layup just before time expired in the quarter. Once again, Little Rock snapped the momentum away from South Alabama at a quarter break.
Little Rock seemingly controlled the game after that as Collier’s field goal in the paint with 7:39 remaining sparked a 16-2 run that left little down when Foley’s next milestone would be recorded. Collier would be responsible for eight of those 16 points in that run as the senior captain led the Trojans to victory.
The Trojans now turn their attention to rival Arkansas State, who Little Rock will play Friday evening in Jonesboro. It will be yet another pivotal contest as Louisiana moved just a half-game behind Little Rock with their win Saturday.
“The next two weeks are going to be very important,” Foley said. “We have top teams with South Alabama coming back to us and Troy coming to us and we have to go to Arkansas State. We have a chance to improve our standings and get one of those (host) seeds and I hope we can get it done.”
As Little Rock hits the final stretch of the regular season, with the final three regular season games being played in the state of Arkansas, the Trojans will control their own destiny as teams jockey for host seeds.
Coach Foley would prefer more discussions on that topic, quite tired of any milestone discussion. Win number 800 wasn’t easy to obtain.
“And 801 won’t be any easier,” Foley said. “There was so much focus on this that I’m just glad it is over and we can just forget about it and just worry about our kids.”