PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Entering Saturday’s game against league-leading Southern at H.O. Clemmons Arena, the Arkansas-Pine Bluff women’s basketball team had lost four games in a row and shared eighth place with Grambling in the 10-team Southwestern Athletic Conference race.
The Lions had lost to the Jaguars by 23 in their first meeting of the season.
And they would be playing their first game without freshman point guard Cassidy Wright, who was lost for the season with an ACL injury five nights earlier.
Who could have seen this coming?
Arkansas-Pine Bluff not only avenged the earlier setback with a 59-50 victory, but for the most part controlled Southern in a game it never trailed after falling behind 2-1.
“This has been an ongoing problem with this team — lack of leadership, intensity, play when I feel like it,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. “That showed up again tonight. We weren’t hitting shots. We weren’t executing in the halfcourt. We weren’t guarding anybody, either.”
In ending its four-game skid, UAPB (8-14, 4-8) snapped Southern’s eight-game winning streak.
The Jaguars (11-12, 10-2) suffered their only other loss in SWAC play at the hands of Grambling, which like UAPB entered play Saturday with three league victories.
They look to get back on track Monday when they travel to play Mississippi Valley State.
Southern led Saturday’s game 2-0 and 2-1 right out the gate, then watched the Lions reel off eight straight points to take command. The margin never shrunk below seven points in the second half.
Junior guard Christina Lasane led UAPB with 18 points, but the Lions did much of their damage using a bruising inside game to set up high-percentage field goal attempts.
Jenise Gentry had 10 points and four rebounds, usually either connecting from close range or drawing a foul and hitting free throws.
UAPB coach Nate Kilbert said his team got a lift from Wright when the freshman addressed her teammates before Saturday’s game and asked them to win one for her.
Wright learned earlier in the day she was done for the year.
“I think she kind of inspired them tonight,” Kilbert said. “The emotions came out.”
But Kilbert said he had been encouraged by UAPB’s recent play despite the results.
“We’ve really been playing pretty good basketball,” Kilbert said. “This team has slowly been turning that corner.”
Southern flirted with defeat its first two games of the SWAC’s second half, but was able to hold off Grambliing and Jackson State by two points apiece.
“I told them before, I thought we stole two games from Jackson State and Grambling because those guys outhustled us,” Pugh said. “It was a matter of time before it caught up to us, and it caught up to us tonight.”
Yasmin Fuller led Southern with 15 points.
Kendra Coleman finished with 12 points, but Southern’s top scorer didn’t get on the board until after UAPB took a 28-20 lead into halftime. She got the Jaguars within 41-30 when she completed a four-point play with 11:52 left.