The eighth-seeded Arkansas State Red Wolves (13-18) battled top-seeded UALR (25-5) to a 31-31 tie with less than a minute to play before halftime, but the Trojans ended the half with a 4-0 run, built a quick eight-point advantage in the second half and went on to defeat ASU 73-60 in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Sunday afternoon at Summit Arena.
Sophomore guard NeNe Hurst tied her career high with 20 points, and senior guard Ebonie Jefferson added 18 to pace the Red Wolves, while junior forward Chastity Reed led UALR with 34 points.
Jefferson scored 12 of her points in the first half to help keep the Red Wolves in striking distance at the break, but 12 second-half turnovers proved to be too much for ASU to overcome. The Trojans converted ASU's turnovers to 15 points in the final 20 minutes.
"I am very proud of my team with their effort and fight," said ASU head coach Brian Boyer. "We played well in the first half, but turnovers in the second half killed us. When you look at the shot attempts they had compared to what we had, that can't happen and I would like to have a few of those back. But, with that said, I have no issues with our effort or our toughness in today's game."
The Red Wolves out-shot the Trojans on the afternoon, connecting at a 47.9 percent clip from the floor, while UALR hit 44.4 percent of its shots. UALR ended the day making 28 of 63 attempts, while ASU was limited to 23 buckets on a season-low 48 attempts.
Neither team led by more than four points in a first half that included nine ties and 10 lead changes, but Reed broke the 31-31 on a jumper with 26 seconds to play before the break. A late ASU turnover led to a layup from UALR's Kim Sitzmann just before the buzzer to give the Trojans a 35-31 halftime advantage.
UALR built its lead to eight with less than three minutes gone in the second half, and the two teams traded buckets until a basket from Reed with 9:42 remaining put the Trojans up by 10 at 55-45 with just under 10 minutes to play.
The Red Wolves cut the Trojan lead back to single digits when Jefferson hit a jumper in the lane to make it 53-45 with 9:22 remaining, but UALR stretched its lead to 14 over the next four minutes to put the game out of reach.