Cassidy Wright of UAPB brings the ball up court as she is closely guarded by Samantha Gray of New Orleans on Friday at H.O. Clemmons Arena. (Special to The Commercial/Mike Adam)
The Arkansas-Pine Bluff Lady Lions overcame an ugly second half on their way to a huge victory Friday night, defeating the New Orleans Privateers 75-62 at H.O. Clemmons Arena.
“It got ugly in the second half,” UAPB head coach Nate Kilbert said. “We just couldn’t get anything together.
“We had problems getting in our sets and then when we did, we missed wide-open lay-ups.”
New Orleans (1-10) cut the deficit to 58-38 with about 10 minutes left in the game when Amber Clay scored on a jumper inside the paint. Nearly 3 minutes passed before either team scored again. In that time, UAPB (3-6) turned the ball over about five times and had yet to even take a shot.
It wasn’t until senior Chigozianyi Okwumabua knocked down a pair of free throws with 8:50 left in the game did either team score. Clay’s three-pointerafter a media timeout cut the deficit to 60-41 with 7:58 left.
“We stayed at 58 for a while,” Kilbert said. “Sometimes when you get a lead, kids have the tendency to relax a little bit.
“[New Orleans] started playing a little harder. We gave them a little confidence when we play them again on the 28th.
“It will be a different ball game and it will be a tough one.”
Okwumabua, who averages about 11 points a game, managed just eight points Friday night. She was 0 for 5 from the floor but was 8 of 10 from the free-throw line.
Clay and Mathilde Fogelstrom each finished with 13 points to lead New Orleans.
In the first half, UAPB jumped out to an early 9-2 lead after Lakendra Marsh hit a three-pointer with 15 minutes left.
New Orleans got it to 9-5 when Clay scored inside but freshman Cassidy Wright hit a three-pointer to give the Lady Lions a 12-5 lead.
“I thought our kids played real well in the first half,” Kilbert said. “We shot the ball pretty good and executed pretty good.”
After a media timeout, Jenise Gentry hit a pair of free throws and Malone Rhines managed a steal and a two-point jumper to give the Lady Lions a 18-12 lead with about 9 minutes left in the first half.
Rhines scored again after an offensive rebound and putback.
“The young ladies are starting to believe in the things we are doing,” Kilbert said. “But most importantly, they are starting to believe in themselves.
“I enjoyed watching them tonight.”
Rhines, who made her first official appearance Friday night, finished the game with 10 points.
“She just became eligible,” Kilbert said. “She has been practicing with us the whole time, but she still doesn’t understand what we are doing offensively.
“She had a little trouble with some of the schemes we were running.”
Kilbert believes Rhines will increase the team’s overall speed.
“She is a little track star, she can run,” Kilbert said. “She is going to be trouble for people defensively.”
Wright, who averages about nine points a game, led UAPB with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting. She also made four three-pointers.
UAPB shot 34 percent from the floor (23 of 66) and was 5 of 14 from behind the arch. They made 23 of 29 of their free throws.
For New Orleans, Keri Thomas and Mechel’le Thomas contributed with 11 points.
New Orleans was 19 of 56 from the field (33 percent) and was 3 of 12 for three-pointers. They made 22 of 33 free throws.
UAPB will play at New Orleans at Lakefront Arena at 6 p.m. Dec. 28 The Lady Lions will return home for a SWAC opener on Jan. 2 to host Mississippi Valley State at H.O. Clemmons Arena, beginning at 5 p.m.