Warhawks fight back, fall short against Little Rock at SBC Championship, 61-56

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PENSACOLA, Fla. – Trailing by 16 at halftime, the ULM women’s basketball team rallied to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but fifth-seeded Little Rock responded and held off the Warhawk challenge, 61-56, Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Championship at the Pensacola Bay Center.

“What a fight today,” ULM head coach Brooks Donald Williams said. “We are obviously disappointed to not advance, but the fight this team had today was special. We are proud of this group and all they’ve overcame this season. It’s been incredible to see their growth. Exciting times are ahead for ULM women’s basketball with this young crew.”

Second-year freshman Kyren Whittington, a Third-Team All-SBC selection, ended her phenomenal season with her sixth 20-plus point game, scoring 26 points, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, with six rebounds and two assists. Her 410 points on the season are the most by a Warhawk since Gabriella Cortez scored 454 points in 2017-18, and her 15.8 points per game average is the best by a Warhawk since Alayshia Hunter averaged 16.4 points per game in 2015-16.

True freshman Amaya Ford finished with 15 points as she scored in double figures in three of the last four games of the season. Fifth-year senior Kierra Crockett ended her ULM career with three points and 10 rebounds, her second double-figure rebounding performance of the season.

Little Rock was led by All-SBC First Team selection Sali Kourouma’s 21 points, while Raziya Potter added 19 and Mayra Caicedo had 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.

The Warhawks had the quick start, getting out to a 10-6 lead on a 3-pointer by Whittington with 6:21 left in the first quarter. Little Rock answered with 11 of the last 15 points of the quarter to surge in front, 17-14, thanks to a 3-pointer from Caicedo, after a quarter.

The Trojans carried the lead into the second quarter, scoring 12 of the first 13 points to take a 29-15 lead on a layup by Potter with 4:52 left in the half. Just before the layup, Whittington exited the game with an apparent lower leg injury, missing the remainder of the half. She returned to the game in the third quarter. Little Rock led by 16 at halftime, 34-18.

ULM started chipping away at the Trojan lead in the third quarter. Whittington scored five points and Ford had four points in a 9-2 run that pulled ULM within nine at 36-27 on Ford’s layup with 5:49 left in the quarter. The Trojans countered back and extended the lead to 13, 40-27, on Potter’s layup at the 4:13 mark. However, the Warhawks had another 9-2 run to close the quarter, closing the gap to six on Whittington’s layup in transition with 1:12 left in the quarter. Little Rock led 42-36 after three quarters.

ULM kept the pressure on the favored Trojans in the final quarter. Little Rock regained a 10-point lead on Kourouma’s layup with 7:35 to play, 46-36. The Warhawks made an initial charge out of a timeout, as Whittington hit a step back jumper, true freshman Bre Sutton knocked down a pull-up jumper and Ford sunk a hook shot to get within four, 46-42 with 5:22 remaining.

The two sides traded baskets, with Kourouma’s free throw increasing the lead to five, 49-44. Whittington drained a 3-pointer from the right corner to close the margin to two, 49-47. After picking up a defensive stop, Ford drew a foul and stepped to the free-throw line, connecting on two free throws to tie the game 49 with 2:49 left.

However, ULM would never be able to take the lead. Kourouma scored the next five points to put Little Rock on top, 54-49. A traditional three-point play by Whittington cut the gap to two again, 54-52, with 1:45 left. Caicedo knocked down four straight free throws for Little Rock to increase the lead to six, 58-52 with 33 seconds left, as the Trojans held on for the 61-55 win.

ULM shot 43% (21-of-49) from the field and was efficient from the 3-point line, knocking down 4-of-7 treys. Little Rock hit 37% (21-of-57) from the field and 13% (2-of-16) from deep. The difference was at the free-throw line, where the Warhawks shot 53% (10-of-19) to the Trojans’ 90% (17-of-19). ULM outrebounded Little Rock, 37-29, but committed 19 turnovers to eight for the Trojans.

ULM ends the season at 4-25 overall, 0-14 in the Sun Belt Conference.

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