Christina Lasane of UAPB dribbles around Carolinsia Crumbly of Alcorn State on Monday. (Special to The Commercial/Mike Adam)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff senior Lakendra Marsh knocked down two free throws with 20 seconds left to give UAPB a 48-47 lead over Alcorn State on Monday inside H.O. Clemmons Arena.
UAPB (9-14, 5-8 SWAC) won 50-47 as Marsh finished the game with 17 points, including 13 of 14 from the free throw line.
“It felt good,” Marsh said. “I had a game where I struggled with my free throws, so I’ve been trying to get it back to at least 90 percent.
“That’s been my goal the last few games, cause I had really struggled before. I had to buckle down and make my free throws.
“I’m a senior. I had to step up.”
Coming into Monday’s game, Marsh was an 81 percent free-throw shooter.
“She says she has been struggling,” UAPB head coach Nate Kilbert said. “But I’m trying to remember the game where she was struggling from the free throw line.”
Kilbert said whenever Marsh goes to the line for a 1-and-1, he automatically puts two in the book in his head.
“Like with the tech tonight, the referee asked me who is going to the line, I thought she was already at the line,” Kilbert said. “If she is on the floor, she is the one we want shooting the technical foul.
“I just don’t feel like she is going to miss.”
With 8:23 left in the first half, Alcorn State (1-21, 1-12) was called for a technical foul. Marsh went to the free throw line and made both to give the Lady Lions a 13-12 lead.
“Free throw shooting is nothing but confidence,” Kilbert said. “When you get a little winded, you got to have more confidence in your ability to shoot free throws.
“When (Marsh) has the ball, and she gets fouled late in the game – even if she had missed a lot in the beginning – she is going to make them down the stretch.”
Alcorn State took their largest lead of the game when Tierra Frost made one of two from the free throw line and gave the Lady Braves a 30-21 lead with 18:55 left in the game.
Later, after trailing by eight, UAPB went on a 11-0 run to take a 34-31 lead with 10:33 left in the second half.
Marsh got it started by knocking down a pair of free throws and followed with a two-point bucket to trim the deficit to 31-27.
On an inbounds play, Marsh chucked it to Asia Rhines-Malone – who was running down court – and Malone caught the pass and laid it in.
“That’s our baby right there,” Kilbert said. “We knew we would get that at least three times on Alcorn, because of the way they play.
“We put our speed on the same side of the ball. Rhines-Malone just needs that much. You put that ball out front and she is going to beat you to it.”
Rhines-Malone scored again with 11:52 left to tie the game at 31. With 10:33 left in the game, Chi Chi Okwumabua split two defenders, made a layup and then converted the three-point play to give UAPB the 34-31 lead.
Rhines-Malone finished the game with 11 points and 11 rebounds. She was 5 of 11 from the floor and had five offensive rebounds. Okwumabua had eight points and three rebounds.
“I just got done bragging on (Rhines-Malone) in the dressing room,” Kilbert said. “Them post players need to be looking at that. She went to the offensive and defensive boards.
“Three rebounds came right to her because she was going right to the board. If you got the board, eventually one or two are going to fall in your hand.”
UAPB trailed 28-21 at halftime after shooting a miserable 6 of 21 (28 percent) from the floor in the first half. Alcorn State wasn’t much better as they made 10 of 30 (33 percent).
“Alcorn is a bad match-up for us,” Kilbert said. “We only have two ball handlers and I knew they were in for a long night.
“I kind of felt like they were up for the task, especially Marsh. Being able to come back and take the pressure off (Christina) Lasane a little bit.”
Kilbert said with the way Alcorn State pressures, “it is hard to deal with.”
“When they go with that big line up we feel a little better,” Kilbert said. “We knew it was going to be a tough match up, because they do it for the whole game.
“I knew Marsh and Lasane was going to be in trouble tonight because we need them in the game. We don’t have anybody else we can go to.”
On the night, UAPB shot 13 of 41 from the field and was 24 of 37 from the free throw line. Alcorn State was 15 of 52 from the field, 6 of 14 from the three-point range and 11 of 17 from the free throw line.
“To be able to win tonight, that’s great,” Kilbert said. “To be able to beat them at Alcorn, that’s great.
“They aren’t somebody we really want to play. They are the last place team in the conference, but we rather play one of those top teams because we match up better.”
Kilbert said when UAPB plays teams like ASU, “we just have to take care of the ball better.”
“We have to hurt them inside when they have small players on our bigs,” Kilbert said. “We didn’t do a good job tonight when we had those situations.
“They frustrated us in the first half.”
UAPB will play Texas Southern in Houston on Saturday. The Lady Lions will return home on Feb. 23 as they host Grambling State.