Facing an early double-digit deficit, Arkansas State women’s basketball battled back to make it a one-point contest, but South Alabama held on for a 73-64 victory over the Red Wolves in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Friday at Hartsell Arena.
A-State (9-12) trailed 20-5 after the opening quarter, but outscored the Jaguars (13-12) 59-53 in the last three quarters to keep it close. Three players scored in double figures for the Red Wolves, led by 16 points from Karolina Szydlowska, who also tallied seven boards. Antoinette Lewis led USA with 13 points and 19 rebounds, as five Jaguars notched double-digit scoring outputs.
“It has been a tough year for us,” head coach Matt Daniel said. “(South Alabama) came out and hit us in the mouth. We changed up and went small and it was beneficial for us. We took care of the basketball but couldn’t keep them off the offensive glass, which was obviously a key component of what we needed to do. It’s interesting how we’ve only played two-thirds of a normal season. It’s been a year, especially with all the injuries, quarantines and limited practice time, so I’m thankful that we got to play and we remained safe. We had anywhere from 11 to 14 games canceled this year. No games were canceled because of our quarantines or COVID on our end, so I’m thankful for that.”
Peyton Martin and Jada Stinson recorded 12 points apiece for A-State, while Talia Roldan was effective in 11 minutes off the bench with eight points – six from three. As a team, A-State shot 35.1 percent (20 of 57) from the floor and 38.9 percent (7-18) from three.
For South Alabama, Jayla Morrow and Devyn Lowe scored 16 points while Janelle Jones added 15 off the bench. Mahogany Vaught was the fifth Jaguar in double figures with 13.
A-State struck first, but only scored five in the opening quarter, as South Alabama led 20-5 after the first period. The Red Wolves would claw back in the second quarter, however, trimming the deficit to as little as five with three minutes to go in the half. USA extended its lead back out to nine, but a strong post move by Trinitee Jackson and a buzzer-beating pull-up jumper by Szydlowska made it a 31-25 Jaguar lead at the half.
USA’s lead expanded to 11 early in the third, but eight points off the bench from Roldan sparked a comeback. Five straight free throws – four by Mya Love made it a one-point deficit with two minutes left in the third, but a three by Jones and jumper by Vaught once again put the Jaguars ahead by eight. A-State would beat the buzzer, however, as Szydlowska swished a last-second heave from half court to make it 54-49 USA after three.
The Jaguars stretched their lead back out to double digits early in the final period, but Stinson scored seven unanswered for the Scarlet and Black to cut it to three. Jones and Szydlowska traded threes to make it 67-64 USA with 2:06 remaining. South Alabama would close the contest scoring six straight to advance to the second round.
For the latest on the A-State women’s basketball program, follow @AStateWB on Twitter and @astatewbb on Instagram, while also liking the team’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/RedWolvesWBB.