Early victory: Lady Lions pick up ‘confidence booster’ at home

Wins have been hard to come by for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff women’s basketball team.

The Lady Lions have won just two games the past two years — one victory each season. But UAPB matched its win total from last season in only the second game of this season with a 67-48 victory over Philander Smith College on Thursday at H.O. Clemmons Arena.

The victory may have come over an NAIA school, but it was still a much-needed victory, UAPB coach Nate Kilbert said.

“That’s one reason I scheduled the game because I figured it would be a confidence booster just to win,” he said. “Didn’t matter who it was against, just to win itself. … Have a couple more home games that we can win and I think there is a possibility that we can go on the road and play better.”

While getting the win is a big confidence booster to UAPB (1-1), Kilbert did not think this was the Lady Lions’ best game of year, even though they have played just two. On Sunday, UAPB fell to Kansas State 89-55 in Manhattan, and Kilbert thought the team played better in that loss.

“I was really happy that we got this home game out of the way because I thought (we) were pressing,” he said. “We played better against Kansas State and executed better, Kansas State was just a better team. … But if you can get the win, and we did, it’s a good thing.”

Senior forward Jenise Gentry has had to suffer through a lot of the losing over the past couple of seasons, so she was happy with a victory.

“It’s very exciting to actually get a win in the preseason,” she said. “It’s actually a confidence booster for us and allows us to see what we are capable of, that we can beat teams and beat them good.”

UAPB led from the very start when freshman Cassidy Wright’s jumper from the free throw line gave the Lady Lions a 2-0 lead within the first minute. Philander Smith never tied the game.

The game was within double digits at halftime, though, as the Lady Lions had a 32-24 lead.

Gentry said Kilbert got on the team at halftime, which led to a 10-1 run to begin the second half to essentially put the game away.

“He basically got into us and told us to finish and execute our offense,” she said. “Make sure we are aware on the court, know where our man is and know where we are on the court.”

UAPB’s biggest lead came at the 9:58 mark with a 56-34 advantage.

Gentry had a team-high 16 points in the game and added seven rebounds as UAPB shot 43.9 percent as a team.

“I had to prove to myself and the coaches that I can stay on the court,” Gentry said. “I think this will be a good season for the team and I thought it was a good turnout.”

Wright followed with 14 points, four assists and three steals. Aubre Mitchell added 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

Philander Smith’s leading scorer was Jerricka Scott with 15 points as the Lady Panthers shot just 28.8 percent for the game and had 27 turnovers.

UAPB’s next game is Saturday at Alabama.