GREENWOOD, Miss. — In this Delta rivalry, Mississippi Valley State still has the edge against its old coach.
Senior guard Joncyee Sanders scored a game-high 15 pionts and added 11 rebounds in leading the Devilettes to a 60-49 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in both teams’ SWAC opener. Valley, which ended UAPB’s 2012-13 season in the SWAC semifinals, has won three of four against the Lady Lions, whom Nate Kilbert took over in May 2012 after nine years at Valley.
The loss is the Lady Lions’ 10th straight after winning their season opener against Philander Smith, but Kilbert said the defeat didn’t concern him.
“We’re on the road,” Kilbert said. “They (Valley) had to win. This was a road game for us. We need to win our home games. Especially where we are with our program, if we win road games, that’s just great, but it’s no pressure on us. They’re picked higher than we are in the conference and we’re picked at the bottom. Our big thing is just to take care of business at home.”
UAPB, which is 1-1 at home, won’t play in Pine Bluff again until hosting Southern on Jan. 18.
Christina Lasane and Jazmyne Victorian each scored 13 points to lead UAPB (1-10, 0-1). Lasane struggled to a 3-for-14 field-goal performance, but added a team-high six rebounds.
“Lasane had a terrible night,” Kilbert said. “With the kids we have now, she can’t have those kinds of nights. She’s got to be able to make those shots that she was missing.”
Kilbert did point to the Lady Lions’ free throw shooting as a factor in Saturday’s loss. In an 11-point loss, they made 12 of 20 for 60 percent.
“You don’t give yourselves a chance to win when you miss free throws the way we did,” Kilbert said. “We made the right plays, we got into our offense real good and got what we wanted out of it.”
UAPB, which shot 18 for 43 from the field for 41.9 percent, made 1 of 10 three-point attempts and was saddled with 19 turnovers.
The Lady Lions settled down enough to take an 8-4 lead, but DeRita Silas brought the Devilettes (2-10, 1-0) back with eight first-half points, constantly finding her jump shot at the top of the key.
Valley took its first lead at 15-14 with 7:37 left in the first half and held UAPB without a field goal for the next 4 minutes while building a 28-18 lead at halftime. Sanders scored eight points at the break.
“(Sanders) is the best point guard in the conference,” Kilbert said. “I recruited her here, so I know how good she is. She gets everybody involved. She’s just a tough matchup.”
Victorian scored six straight in the middle of the period to help the Lady Lions keep a slim lead.
UAPB closed the gap to within 28-22 before Olivia Kennedy knocked down back-to-back threes for Valley. Sanders capped an 8-0 run with a three-point basket at the 12:52 mark that gave Valley its largest lead at 44-28.
The Lady Lions had an answer with an 8-1 spurt aided by a Cassidy Wright trey, but a Sanders field goal and Kennedy fast-break bucket off a steal put the Devilettes ahead 49-36.
Carlisha Walker, from nearby Itta Bena, had seven points for UAPB. Sanders’ twin sister Jasmyne and Kennedy each had 12 points for Valley.
The Devilettes struggled to a 19-for-53 shooting game (35.8 percent) including 3 of 18 from the perimeter, but made 19 of 30 free throws for 63.3 percent.