The Arkansas-Pine Bluff Lady Lions narrowly missed a huge upset win Monday night as they lost to Nebraska-Omaha 67-63 at H.O. Clemmons Arena.
“Their experienced show, their little point guard was good at what she did,” UAPB head coach Nate Kilbert said. “In the end, they have a lot more experience and a better understanding of the system than what we have.”
With about 4 minutes left in the game, UAPB (2-6) was trailing 60-58 following a three-pointer by Lakendra Marsh from the corner.
After a steal by Chigozianyi Okwumabua at half-court, Cassidy Wright nailed a three-pointer to give UAPB a 61-60 lead.
Omaha’s Jamie Nash would give the Mavericks (7-2) a 63-61 lead when she completed a three-point play with just over 2 minutes left in the game.
“I’m proud of the way our kids played,” Kilbert said. “We played a real good ball club and we had a chance to win, and that’s all you can really ask for.”
Okwumabua would grab another steal during a double team attack in the corner. Her loose ball steal would lead to an easy bucket that tied the game at 63 with 55 seconds left. Nash would score again on a drive for a 65-63 lead with 23 seconds left.
“She did that to us about five times in a row,” Kilbert said. “When they needed baskets, she got all the way to basket.”
UAPB’s Jenise Gentry missed the front end of a 1-and-1, which led to another score by Omaha to seal the win.
“Experienced teams win close ballgames,” Kilbert said. “Right now these kids are new to our system and new to what we are trying to do.
“I thought we executed good offensively. It was our defensive schemes is where we failed.”
With 6:54 left in the second half, UAPB trailed 54-48 following a pair of free throws by Gentry.
UAPB would cut the deficit to three thanks to a three by Marsh, another set of free throws by Gentry and a bucket by Okwumabua.
Marsh led the Lady Lions with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting, including five threes.
“She has been playing well for us,” Kilbert said. “She has been shooting the ball extremely well.
“We are a pretty good ball club when she shoots the ball like she has been of late.”
Kilbert said when Marsh is on like she was Monday, she is able to spread the defense out and make more room for Okwumabua to operate down low.
“She makes our team a lot better when she is making that shot,” Kilbert said.
Okwumabua finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Kilbert said he was impressed with her defense, especially how she handled having to guard Omaha’s Paige Frauendorfer.
“I thought she did a real good job,” Kilbert said. “(Frauendorfer) was a hell of a ball player and I thought she did a good job against her.”
Frauendorfer finished the first half with just two points, but she scored 13 points to start the second half and tied the game at 42 with about 12:52 left.
Frauendorfer, who averages 14 points per game, led the Mavericks with 18 points on Monday.
“We gave them too many open looks to get them back in the game,” Kilbert said.
UAPB shot 35 percent (20 of 57) from the field, 44 percent (8 of 18) from behind the arch and shot 71 percent (15 of 21) from the charity stripe in Monday’s loss.
UAPB will host New Orleans at 6 p.m. Friday.
“We are getting better,” Kilbert said. “I’m looking forward to the UNO game, and see how our kids respond after a loss like this.
“We got a long ways to go, but I’m impressed with where we are right now.”