HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (3/7/11) – Just 24 hours after posting season-best shooting percentages from the floor, three-point range and the free throw line in a Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball Tournament quarterfinal round victory over Middle Tennessee, the Arkansas State Red Wolves (18-14) couldn't find their shooting touch and dropped a 55-47 decision to Western Kentucky Monday afternoon in the semifinal round at Summit Arena.
Arkansas State shot just 33.9 percent from the field in the game, including going 1-for-14 from three point range. The Red Wolves converted just 8-of-17 free throw attempts on the afternoon, but despite their shooting woes, stayed within striking distance until the Hilltoppers made it a three-possession game with 36 seconds remaining.
Junior guard NeNe Hurst led the Red Wolves with 15 points, senior forward Shay Scott added 10 and senior guard Jazmine Taylor added nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. The Hilltoppers got 18 points and 11 rebounds from senior forward Arnika Brown, who put the game out of reach when she hit a pair of free throws with 36 seconds to go that gave WKU a 54-47 advantage.
"I am disappointed, but not in the effort of these girls," said ASU head coach Brian Boyer. "I am very proud of this group. Not only what they have done in this tournament, but even today I think the effort and the fight was there all the way to the finish. We only had nine turnovers, but we just shot it so poorly from the perimeter and the free throw line that we could just never get back over the hump."
Arkansas State jumped out to an early 14-7 lead on a layup from junior guard Meghan Lewis less than seven minutes into the game, but when Hurst was saddled with her third foul less than two minutes later, Western Kentucky went on a 16-3 run, taking a 23-17 lead with 7:32 remaining in the half.
Arkansas State managed to trim the Hilltopper lead to 29-27 at the break, then fought back to take a 33-32 lead on a bucket by Hurst with 17:05 remaining. From there, the lead changed hands five times and was tied three times, with ASU taking its final lead with 9:50 remaining when Hurst scored to make it 45-44.
Western Kentucky got baskets from Brown and Keisha Mosley to grab a 48-45 advantage with 6:39 to play, and ASU cut the Hilltopper lead to one at 48-47 on a layup from Hurst with 6:04 to go, but the Red Wolves went cold and did not score again. Western Kentucky answered with a basket from LaTeira Owens at the 5:46 mark, then scored its remaining five points on free throws to put the game away.
Arkansas State scored 18 of its points off of 16 Western Kentucky turnovers, while the Hilltoppers won the battle on the boards 43-35.