Arkansas State ends ULM’s season

What a two-game stretch for Arkansas-Little Rock point guard Taylor Ford.

First, Ford scoreD a career-tying 24 points during the Trojans’ regular-season finale, a March 8 win against Louisiana-Monroe. Then on Wednesday night, she found a way to lead UALR into the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball tournament.

Ford scored 21 points, including her team’s final four points, to seal a 66-54 victory against Troy State at Lakefront Arena.

She never left the court for UALR, playing all 40 minutes. Ford made nine of her 13 shots, adding five rebounds, four assists and three turnovers.

Ford, fighting constant pressure from Troy State (12-18), converted two free throws with 2:47 left, then added a jump shot with 2:11 left, finding space an small opening in Troy State’s perimeter defense.

Coupled with points from teammate Taylor Gault and 12 from Kiera Clark, UALR (18-11), winners of its past four games, advances to Friday’s semifinals against Western Kentucky.

Kourtney Coleman (20 points) and Joanna Harden (10 points) led Troy State, which struggled to score, shooting 31.4 percent from the field.

ARKANSAS STATE 78, UL-MONROE 69: A week after crushing the Warhawks 107-57 in Jonesboro, Ark, the top-seeded Red Wolves trailed with 4 minutes left in the first half and did not seal their victory until the final two minutes.

Eighth-seeded ULM grabbed 23 offensive rebounds to Arkansas State’s seven but shot just 25-of-67 from the floor. The Red Wolves hit 26 of 50 shots.

“You try to talk about it (overconfidence) as much as you can,” Arkansas State coach Brian Boyer said. “We knew that they were capable. They were very aggressive on the boards.”

Arkansas State (21-10) took the lead for good with a 12-5 run to end the first half. Jalen O’Bannon came off the bench to score a season-high 21 points. Aundrea Gamble contributed 15 points, adding team highs of eight rebounds and five assists.

“It feels really good to get the first game out of the way,” Gamble said. “The first game always has nerves. I think from here on out it will be better.”

The Red Wolves will try to end a 13-game semifinal losing streak against North Texas at noon Friday. Their last appearance in the final was 1991-92, their first year in the league.

Alexar Tugler scored 14 and twin sister Elaxar Tulger added 13 points for ULM (11-20), which had a frustrating end to a disappointing year with a lineup featuring four senior starters.

TEXAS STATE 78, GEORGIA STATE 44: The second game went off script, too, with the No. 4 seed Bobcats blowing out the fifth-seeded Panthers after the two teams split their regular season meetings.

Texas State (16-14) raced to a 24-8 lead midway through the first half and led by double digits the rest of the way, going ahead by as much as 77-37.

Center Ashley Ezeh scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and the Bobcats blistered the nets from outside.

Entering the tournament as the Sun Belt’s worst 3-point shooting team, they made 10 of 21 3-pointers, with Meghan Braeuer and Ayriel Anderson each connecting on four.

“I’m still pinching myself right now,” Texas State coach Zenarae Antoine said. “I haven’t really let it set in. This is the first time I’ve seen two very solid halves from my team.”

Georgia State (12-19), whose previous worst loss was 25 points, ended the year on a six-game slide.