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Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball news and notes

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From the Sun Belt Conference

Week 12 Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week

Jerica Coley (FIU, Junior, Guard)
Junior Jerica Coley led FIU to a 2-0 week in Sun Belt Conference play, as the Panthers picked up a pair of road victories at Louisiana and South Alabama. Coley registered two, 30-plus point performances, scoring 34 points against the Ragin' Cajuns and netting 31 points against the Jaguars. The country's national leader in scoring at 24.7 points per game, Coley averaged an astounding 32.5 points per contest last week, shooting 64.3 percent from the floor. In addition, the All-America candidate averaged 4.5 rebounds per game and recorded four steals, four assists and three blocks.

Previous Players of the Week
11.13 - Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee, Junior, Forward)
11.20 - Chastity Gooch (Western Kentucky, Sophomore, Forward)
11.27 - Jerica Coley (FIU, Junior, Guard)
12.04 - Alexis Govan (Western Kentucky, Sophomore, Guard)
12.11 - Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee, Junior, Forward)
12.18 - Jerica Coley (FIU, Junior, Guard)
01.07 - Alexis Govan (Western Kentucky, Sophomore, Guard)
01.14 - Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee, Junior, Forward)
01.21 - Alexis Govan (Western Kentucky, Sophomore, Guard)

Around the Sun Belt Conference
FIU junior Jerica Coley led FIU to a 2-0 week in Sun Belt Conference play, as the Panthers picked up a pair of road victories at Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama. For her efforts, Coley has been named the SBC Women's Basketball Player of the Week, the league office announced on Monday.

Coley registered two 30-plus point performances, scoring 34 points against the Ragin' Cajuns and netting 31 points against the Jaguars. The country's national leader in scoring at 24.7 points per game, Coley averaged an astounding 32.5 points per contest last week, shooting 64.3 percent from the floor. In addition, the All-America candidate averaged 4.5 rebounds per game and recorded four steals, four assists and three blocks.

FIU is now 13-7 overall and 7-4 in the SBC and has won seven of its last ten games.

Middle Tennessee continues its winning streak, pushing the total up to nine games. The Blue Raiders swept the weekend with wins over North Texas and WKU. MT is now 15-5 on the season and 10-1 in the SBC as it sits atop the SBC East Division.

Arkansas State has reeled off six consecutive wins after defeating Troy and Florida Atlantic last week. The Red Wolves are 7-3 in its past ten games and are two games over .500 overall (11-9) and lead the SBC West Division.

This week the Blue Raiders and Red Wolves will look to keep those streaks intact as MT travels to South Florida to take on FIU and Florida Atlantic. ASU will host South Alabama and North Texas.

Check out www.sunbeltsports.org throughout the week for updated SBC basketball news, stats and scores.

Recent Results

January 23 (Wednesday)
FIU 64, Louisiana-Lafayette 63 (OT)
Florida Atlantic 45, UALR 77
Western Kentucky 46, South Alabama 56

January 24 (Thursday)
Middle Tennessee 60, North Texas 47
Arkansas State 87, Troy 74

January 26 (Saturday)
Troy 74, Louisiana-Monroe 79
Florida Atlantic 56, Arkansas State 74
UALR 52, North Texas 48

January 27 (Sunday)
Western Kentucky 57, Middle Tennessee 79
FIU 50, South Alabama 46

Upcoming Games

January 30 (Wednesday)
Louisiana-Monroe at Florida Atlantic 6:00 PM
North Texas at Louisiana-Lafayette 7:00 PM
Troy at Western Kentucky 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech at UALR 7:00 PM
South Alabama at Arkansas State 7:05 PM

January 31 (Thursday)
Middle Tennessee at FIU 4:30 PM

February 2 (Saturday)
Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic 2:00 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at FIU 4:30 PM
South Alabama at UALR 4:30 PM
Louisiana-Lafayette at Troy 5:15 PM

February 3 (Sunday)
North Texas at Arkansas State 2:05 PM

Team News and Notes

UALR Trojans
UALR improved to 13-7 overall and evened its conference record at 6-6 thanks to a 77-45 win over Florida Atlantic Wednesday (Jan. 23) and a 52-48 win at North Texas Saturday (Jan. 26). The 32-point win over the Owls matched the largest win this season for the Trojans (79-47 over Oral Roberts Nov. 21, 2012). The Trojans won two games in a row for the first time since before Christmas (Dec. 18 against Tulsa and Dec. 22 against South Alabama). Against Florida Atlantic, freshman Shanity James grabbed a career-best 13 rebounds and added 11 points as she recorded her first career double-double. She became the third Trojan to accomplish this feat (and the second freshman) on the season. UALR finished the week with seven blocks and have 113 rejections on the season, just two shy of breaking the Trojans' single-season record for blocks for a season. After a career-high 16 points against the Owls, junior Taylor Ford scored five points in a row in the final minutes against North Texas to help UALR claim the come-from-behind, 52-48 win. With the Trojans down 48-45 and the shot clock winding down, Ford stepped up and made the only UALR triple of the game to tie it up with 2:35 left. She followed that with a jumper to give the Trojans the lead for good. Sophomore Taylor Gault capped the night with a fastbreak layup with less than a second left. With North Texas leaving the league, UALR finishes with a 12-11 record against the Mean Green. While they trail 6-7 in games in Little Rock, UALR finishes with a 6-3 mark against NT in Denton. Holding both opponents under the half-century mark on the week, UALR improves to 103-5 under head coach Joe Foley when holding opponents to 50 points or less. Finally, UALR wraps up non-conference play Wednesday (Jan. 30) when it hosts Louisiana Tech for the annual WBCA "Think Pink" game before wrapping up SBC East home play Saturday (Feb. 2) against South Alabama.

Arkansas State Red Wolves
The Arkansas State women's basketball team extended its winning streak to six straight with a pair of victories over Troy and Florida Atlantic this past week. The Red Wolves went to Troy and defeated the Trojans 87-74 on Thursday and then returned home for a televised matchup with Florida Atlantic on Saturday. A-State led for much of the game and defeated the Owls 74-56 for its sixth straight victory. ASU has now won nine out of its last 11 games after starting the season 0-5. The six game winning streak is the longest since the 2010-11 season when the Red Wolves won straight before losing in the semifinals in the Sun Belt Conference tournament. A-State is in first place in the SBC West Division by two full games on North Texas. Sophomore Hanna Qedan recorded her first career double-double with 19 points and 14 points against Troy. The 14 rebounds were a new career high for Qedan and she missed tying her career high in points by just three. She also knocked down five 3-pointers in the game, the fifth time this season she has done that. Jane Morrill backed up Qedan's performance with her third career double-double against Florida Atlantic on Saturday. The junior forward scored 16 points and 10 rebounds to help ASU to the victory. Freshman Jalen O'Bannon scored a career high 23 points against Troy in just 19 minutes of action. She also had nine rebounds, one short of her first career double-double. Entering Saturday's game with Florida Atlantic, ASU ranked second in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a 23.5 average for the year.

Florida Atlantic Owls
Florida Atlantic dropped a pair of road contest against West Division opponents UALR and Arkansas State. The setback drop the Owls to 10-9 on the season and 7-4 in league play. FAU will host ULM on Wednesday, January 30 at 7 p.m. before battling East Division leader Middle Tennessee on Saturday, February 2. The team currently has the longest consecutive home conference winning streak at 11 victories. FAU defeated ULM 82-72 on December 29 and will look for its second season sweep of the league season. The Owls took both meetings against Troy. Junior forward Chenise Miller leads the team in scoring (14.3 ppg), rebounding (7.8 rpg) and blocked shots (40).  Her 40 blocks lead the league. Senior guard Breana Turner is averaging 11.4 points and junior guard Takia Brooks rounds out the double-figure scorers with 10.4 points per game.

FIU Panthers
FIU has now won three-straight games as the Panthers defeated Sun Belt Conference foes Louisiana and South Alabama on the road this week. With an overtime victory over Louisiana (1/23/13), FIU is now 12-11 all-time in OT contests. FIU has now won four-straight overtime contests, dating back to the 2009-10 season. Junior Jerica Coley owns a career free throw percentage of .854 (434-of-508), a mark which ranks atop the FIU career charts. Her 434 career made free throws rank second in the Panther record books. Junior Jerica Coley has scored 1,789 career points, a mark which ranks fifth all-time at FIU. Coley, who has scored in double-figures in 19 of 20 contests this season and in 76 of 86 career games, leads the country in scoring (24.7 ppg). Head Coach Cindy Russo's 683 career victories rank ninth among active Division I coaches and 16th on the all-time winningest coaches list. For her career, junior Jerica Coley has averaged 20.8 points per game, a mark which ranks second all-time in program history. This season, Coley has scored 40.1 percent (494-of-1231) of FIU's points.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
The Ragin' Cajuns wrap up January on Wednesday at home hosting North Texas at Earl K. Long Gym…It will be the team's first outing in a week's time, as Saturday served as one of two "byes" in the Sun Belt schedule…North Texas claimed the season's first meeting, a 71-59 decision back on Dec. 1 in Denton, Texas…Louisiana is in search of its first win of the "New Year" and has lost seven straight since the double-overtime win over UALR on Dec. 29…Louisiana is 5-5 at home in Garry Brodhead's inaugural season (4-4 Earl K. Long Gym/1-1 Cajundome)…The Cajuns played an overtime contest for the third time this season, forging extra time against FIU…The Panthers edged the Cajuns 64-63, marking UL's first overtime loss in the Garry Brodhead era…Freshman point guard Kia Wilridge returned to action last Wednesday after missing the WKU-MT trip with a shoulder injury…The three-point exploits of Sylvana Okde continued against FIU as she connected on three in a contest for the third time in the past five games and ninth time this season (finished 3-of-4)…Okde is on pace for 81 three-point field goals made, which would land in the program's all-time, single-season Top 5 list…The last Cajuns player to convert 80-plus three-point field goals was Rhonda McCullough back in 1989-90…Okde continues to lead the Sun Belt Conference in three-point field goals made per game (2.7)…The freshman class of Sylvana Okde (11.4), Keke Veal (11.1), Kia Wilridge (8.9), Jasmin Mills (4.3) and Adrienne Prejean (1.7) – the foundation class on which Garry Brodhead plans to rebuild the program – averages 37.4 points per game (65 percent of the team's offensive production)… The wins and losses may not be satisfactory, but several key freshmen on this year's Cajuns squad are building toward a strong future…Three of the five freshmen have garnered double figure starts and average over 20 minutes per game – Sylvana Okde (16 starts/32.6 mpg), Kia Wilridge (15 starts/32.2 mpg) and Jasmin Mills (15 starts/23.4 mpg)…Keke Veal has averaged double figures each week of January, and enters this week averaging 12.0 points per game in the month… Louisiana has committed more turnovers than the opposition only six times in 20 contests (UL ranks fourth in the SBC in turnover margin at +2.4)…Louisiana's trip to Troy on Saturday marks the first contest on an opponent's home floor since Jan. 19 at Middle Tennessee…Wednesday's game with North Texas is the final contest as Sun Belt Conference opponents.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
ULM completed the regular season sweep of Troy with a 79-74 win on Saturday afternoon. It was the most points the Warhawks have scored this season, topping its previous high of 75 at Troy on Jan. 10. In addition, ULM scored 48 points in the first half the most of any stanza this season. Jasmine Shaw led ULM with 19 points and eight rebounds. Ashleigh Simmons scored 17 points and has now scored in double figures in nine straight games. The win over Troy on Saturday was the 50th all-time Sun Belt for ULM. Seven Warhawks have led ULM in scoring this season. At #18 Texas on Dec. 11, ULM attempted 41 free throws, it was the first time the squad tallied 40 or more FTs in a single game since Dec. 21, 1999 (W, 66-65 vs. New Orleans). The Warhawks make its Florida swing beginning on Wednesday at Florida Atlantic and concludes on Saturday at FIU. The Warhawk program is two wins away from 600 all-time victories. Mona Martin needs four wins for 250 and ULM is three home wins away from 300 inside Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Middle Tennessee (15-5, 10-1 Sun Belt) stretched its' win streak to nine games with critical wins over North Texas and at WKU and remain atop the Sun Belt East division. The Blue Raider won their 12th consecutive conference road game with a 60-47 victory over the Mean Green last Thursday. MT overcame an early 13 point deficit and used a 13-point run of their on in the second half to secure the win. Kortni Jones paced the Raiders with 23 points, matching a career-high with six triples. Her 21 three-point attempts in the game set a new school and league record. Ebony Rowe inked a double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Icelyn Elie added 10 points for MT. The Raiders maintained the edge of their rival WKU with a 79-57 win on Sunday. Senior KortnI Jones has a career-night with 28 points. She knocked down 8-of-13 from the field, while tallying nine from the free throw line. Ebony Rowe inked her 45th career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Icelyn Elie also reached the 20-point plateau with 22 points and eight rebounds as the Raiders won their 11th straight over WKU. The Blue Raiders' win streak of nine games is tied for eighth in the NCAA. The Raiders are 27-3 when Ebony Rowe scores 20 or more points and are 12-1 this season when holding opponents under 60 points. Rowe leads the Raiders with 21.3 points and 11.2 rebounds this season. Her 1,494 points ranks 11th all-time at MT and is just three shy of reaching Amber Holt for 10th in school history. Icelyn Elie and Kortni Jones are averaging 14.4 and 14.1 points, respectively. Jones leads the Raiders with 90 assists and 48 triples in 20 games this season. Elie is the Raiders leader in blocks with 22. Middle Tennessee makes its trek to Florida this week with a visit to FIU on Thursday, Jan. 31 and Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Feb. 2.

North Texas Mean Green
Freshman Loryn Goodwin notched back-to-back games of 20 points or more. She had 25 against FAU and followed that up with 21 points against MTSU. North Texas dropped two straight games at home and was held to less than 50 points in both games. It is the first time since the 2002-03 season that the Mean Green lost two straight home games and was held to less than 50 points. Goodwin is four steals and four 3-pointers away from joining the top-10 all-time in school history in both categories. Goodwin has 38 3-pointers and 66 steals. She is hitting 37.6 percent of her 3-pointers on the year, which is the best 3-point FG percentage by a freshman since 1995-96. Since moving into the starting lineup, Goodwin has increased her scoring averaged from 10.6 points a game off the bench to 14.4 points a game as a starter. Alexis Hyder scored 10 first half points against UALR after being held to only 5 over the last three games in the first half.

South Alabama Jaguars
South Alabama went 1-1 this past week, upsetting then Sun Belt West Division co-leader Western Kentucky 56-46 on Wednesday, but falling 50-46 to Florida International on Sunday. With the win versus Western Kentucky, South Alabama has now won three-straight in the all-time series and four of the last five meetings.  Head coach Rick Pietri is now 5-3 versus the Lady Toppers in Mobile.  Meghan Dunn made just her fifth start of the season in place of Mary Nixon.  Redshirt freshman Rachel Cumbo made her collegiate debut and had one rebound in one minute of action.  WKU entered the game averaging 70.9 ppg and 73.3 ppg versus SBC opponents, but was held to a season-low 46 points.  USA has now held seven opponents – five from the Sun Belt – below the 50-point mark this season.  WKU's Alexis Govan – the reigning player of the week – was held to 10 points for the game and three in the second half.  Govan entered the contest averaging 19.6 ppg and 21.8 ppg in league play.  Chastity Gooch recorded her nation-best 16th double-double with her 14 points and 14 rebounds.  USA freshman post player Brianna Wright set a new career-high with 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting.  Camille Reynolds also set a new season-high with 16 points.  Reynolds – who was 4-of-7 from beyond the arc versus the Toppers – broke out of an offensive slump on Wednesday.  Coming into the game, she had been just seven for her last 39 from the field and one for her last 18 from long range. Nixon (concussion) did not play versus WKU due to injury, but returned to action on Sunday versus FIU.  The senior guard led the Lady Jags with 11 points. With the loss to FIU, South Alabama falls to 11-17 in the all-time series versus the Panthers.  FIU has now won the last four meetings.  USA, which ranked 10th in the nation in three-point field-goal defense held the Panthers to 0-of-6 shooting from the arc in the game. The 12 first-half points by South Alabama versus FIU were a season low, eclipsing the previous mark of 15 (at Cal State Northridge – 11/23).  The five offensive rebounds pulled down by USA in the game were also a new season-low. With the 46 points, South Alabama has now been held below the 50-point plateau six times this season and five time in Sun Belt play. One of the key stats of the game was on the glass where FIU held a 38-29 advantage, but limited USA to just five offensive rebounds.  The Jaguars entered the game averaging 13.9 per outing.

Troy Trojans
The Trojans (3-16, 0-10) dropped a pair of contest last week, losing at home to Arkansas State and on the road at ULM. The losses extend the Trojans' losing streak to nine games, including 15 straight losses in Sun Belt games, dating back to last season. There were some bright spots in the two games for Troy, including a turnover average that continues to dwindle.  The Trojans committed just 11 turnovers against Arkansas State and 16 against ULM.  Troy averages 21.0 turnovers per game. Joanna Harden averaged 21.0 points per game on the week, including 28 points at ULM while Ashley Beverly-Kelley scored 20 against ULM and 21 against Arkansas State. Despite the two losses, the Trojans are still the highest scoring team in the Sun Belt at 74.5 points per game.  Troy is also the league's top rebounding team at 42.2 boards per game. Individually, Harden (13.4 ppg) leads three Trojans averaging double-figure scoring.  Ashley Beverly-Kelley is just behind (12.9 ppg) and is the second leading scoring freshman in the Sun Belt. In Sun Belt play, Harden is 17.4 points per game, good for fourth in the league.  Over her last five games, the Pompano Beach, Fla., native is averaging 23.0 points per game. This week, Troy visits WKU on Wednesday before hosting Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

WKU Hilltoppers
WKU (15-5 overall, 8-3 SBC East) has dropped consecutive games for the first time this season after falling at South Alabama (56-46) and Middle Tennessee (79-57). Despite the two losses, WKU still has its best record through 20 games since 2007-08 when it was also 15-5. In Sunday's game at Middle Tennessee, the duo of Alexis Govan (26 points) and Chastity Gooch (20 points) combined for 46 of WKU's 57 points. WKU has two players with 20 points in the game for the second time in four games.  It also happened on Jan. 16 when Govan and Bianca McGee reached the mark against Louisiana-Lafayette. Gooch scored her 500th career point during the first half of Sunday's game at MTSU.  She continues to lead the nation in double-doubles after points her 16th and 17th of the season this week. With 26 points on Sunday, Govan posted her ninth 20-plus point game of the season, and 11th of her career. Govan has scored in double figures in all 20 games this season and in 23 consecutive games overall. Wednesday night at South Alabama, freshman Jalynn McClain posted her fourth double-digit game of the season as she came off the bench to score 11 points and pull down six rebounds. That matched her highest scoring output in a Sun Belt Conference game, as she also tossed in 11 at Louisiana-Monroe. The Lady Toppers return home Wednesday night to host Troy in their only game of the week.  WKU will be looking to improve to 6-0 at home in conference games.

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