Little Rock WBB tops Southern Miss to advance in NIT

Little Rock Sports
Evan Drexler, Associate Director for Communications

LITTLE ROCK – A huge fourth-quarter run propelled the Little Rock women’s basketball team to its first-ever Postseason WNIT victory at Southern Miss on Wednesday evening.

With the game tied at 54-54 with 6:34 left, Little Rock (25-8) scored 13 of the next 16 points to defeat Southern Miss (23-11) and advance to the Second Round of the Postseason WNIT for the first time in program history.

The Trojans will face either Alabama or Mercer at a date and time this weekend still to be determined. Alabama and Mercer play in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Thursday evening.

On her 22nd birthday, senior Kaitlyn Pratt topped the Trojans with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting and also had a team-high eight rebounds. Freshman Anna Hurlburt got the start and scored 13 points and had two assists, and sophomore Kira Shepard had 14 points, four rebounds and five assists.

Monique Townson and Sharde’ Collins also reached double-figure scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Townson had a team-high nine assists and four steals.

Wednesday’s game had 11 ties and 10 different lead changes, but the final lead change happened with just under six minutes to go. With the game tied at 54-54, the Trojans started what would become a huge momentum swing with a 4-0 run on a Shepard jumper and a Townson layup to take a 58-54 lead. Southern Miss made a jumper to get back within 2 points with 4:46 to play, but that would be the Eagles’ last field goal for more than four minutes.

The Trojans got another layup and a 3-pointer from Shepard, a Collins jumper and a wide open Ronjanae DeGray layup to take a 10-point lead at 67-57 with 1:22 to play. The rest was all fouling for the Golden Eagles, and Little Rock shot free throws to coast to the final score.

Little Rock got 36 points in the paint during the game and scored 18 points off 14 Southern Miss turnovers. Little Rock out-assisted the Eagles 20-11 and shot 53.6 percent from the field overall. In the fourth quarter, the Trojans made 9 of 13 field-goal attempts.

The Trojans and Golden Eagles played a competitive first half with the Eagles taking a 35-33 lead into the break as Brittanny Dinkins made a 3-pointer with just three seconds remaining. Dinkins had 15 points for Southern Miss in the first half on 6-10 shooting, and the Eagles got 8 second-chance points by grabbing nine offensive rebounds.

For Little Rock in the first half, Pratt scored 9 points and Anna Hurlburt scored 7 while also adding three rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Little Rock used an 8-0 run spanning the end of the first and early second quarters to take a lead but never led by more than 3 in the first half.

Southern Miss had multiple moments where it appeared they might pull away, but Little Rock never led the Eagles’ lead get larger than 5 points.

The Trojans will play in the WNIT Second Round against either Alabama or Mercer. Little Rock will find out its opponent, game time and location after the Crimson Tide and Bears play on Thursday evening.

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