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Little Rock Wins 2018 Sun Belt WTournament Championship - Mar 12, 2018


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GREG
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Monique
Townson
Monique Townson (5'6''-G-96) scored 17 points and top-seeded Little Rock advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in program history with a 54-53 victory over Texas State on Sunday night.
Little Rock played in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game for the eighth time and first since 2016. The Trojans have won four Sun Belt tourney titles -- the most by a current member.
Little Rock built a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Tori Lasker (5'7''-G) but Texas State scored the next nine to stay in it. Texas State only scored 20 points in the first half but added 17 in the third to pull to 48-37.
A 13-0 fourth-quarter run put Texas State into a tie at 50 on Zelor Massaquoi (5'7''-G/F)'s layup, but the Bobcats only made one basket in the final four minutes.
Texas State's Toshua Leavitt (5'4''-G) was called for a travelling violation at 50.9. Little Rock broke the full-court pressure and dribbled down the clock but Townson missed a baseline shot at 17.6 and Massaquoi secured the defensive rebound.
Sun Belt player of the year Taeler Deer (5'5''-G) had a decent look at a contested driving layup but it was too strong and bounced off with 1.1 seconds left. Little Rock inbounded it twice after a foul to wind down the clock.
Little Rock (23-9) and Texas State (23-9) both entered on seven-game winning streaks.
Deer finished with 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting for Texas State. Leavitt added 11 points and Brooke Holle 10.
Little Rock has kept its opponents below 40 percent from the field in 20 of the last 22 games as Texas State was held to 35.2 percent shooting.

Little Rock Notes

• This is the third time that Little Rock has won the Sun Belt Regular Season Championship as well as the Tournament Championship in the same season.
• Little Rock has now held its opponents to below 40 percent from the field in 20 of its last 22 games.
• Little Rock has the most championship game wins (4) as well as appearances (8) of any current Sun Belt Conference member.
• The Trojans are undefeated against the Bobcats at Lakefront Arena (3-0).
• Little Rock was perfect from the free throw line (6-6) for the first time this season against a Sun Belt opponent.

Texas State Notes

• Texas State scored 20 points in the first half, which is their lowest scoring half of the season.
Taeler Deer led all players in tournament scoring, averaging 21 points per game for a total of 63 points.
• The Bobcats limited the Trojans to only six fourth-quarter points, tying their best defensive effort of the season against an in-conference opponent.
• The Bobcats are 0-3 on the season in games decided by two points or less.
Taeler Deer accounted for over 40 percent (40.7) of the Bobcats' shots in today's game.
Taeler Deer and Toshua Leavitt shot a combined 31.6 percent in losses prior to today's championship game. Today, they shot 32.2 percent.

Texas State Quotes

Head Coach Zenarae Antoine
Opening Statement:
''Obviously these types of games are tough. It takes you back to being a student athlete - anytime you know how hard it is when you see your player busting their butts out there to put themselves in position to win a big basketball game at this level against one of the top teams in conference, and your heart honestly just really breaks for them. You question yourself as a coach to make sure you did all the right things to put them in the best position to win the game. But ultimately you just really are in a place where you really empathize with them because this team fought as it was obvious to all you guys that watched. I just told them we ran out of time. Now we have to move forward. I don't want them to hang their heads whatsoever. We've broken so many records within the season and these women still have an opportunity to break more. There's a lot of positives to take away from this particular season and there's hope for more afterwards, but in this game - I haven't even looked at the stat sheet but as I see it here in front of me, all basketball games are games of runs. Obviously this was a game of big runs, with Little Rock starting out hot and heavy on us. Kids really knocked down threes we weren't expecting, and ultimately we went towards a zone get some big stops. Turn around and turn those into opportunities to put ourselves right back in the game. I really love this team I appreciate the hard work, especially this young women to my left. I just look forward to more opportunities in future.''
What did you tell your team at halftime when facing the deficit?
'We talked about staying positive with each other. This was the first time that this particular team has been in the championship game as a group. With them trying to figure out what was going on, I think they were looking to each other, trying to understand within the game what was going on. I basically gave them a directive that we have to do a better job of figuring out what we can do ourselves. I told them that they weren't allowed to say anything but what you are going to do themselves, vs. what you need others to do. They took that on and I appreciate that coming out of the locker room, so it really changed the overall attitude. I asked them to let us do the rest of the coaching, because we can recognize - obviously if your teammate turns it over, she's upset. There's no reason to point that out. I think that really shifted their mindset. And in addition to that, this is a really competitive group. We understand we have the ability to score and the game plan, so I think you found multiple players just really buying into that. As we were slowly beginning to chip away, we got closer and closer, and you could see the energy level increase.'
In the huddle before the final possession, what did you tell them.
'I drew up a play to make sure they understood what was going on. I think in the excitement of it all, I question whether I was very clear on what they needed to do, but they still went out and got to a great shot. We were still able to get to what we wanted to, which was Taeler.'

Senior, Guard, Taeler Deer
What was your mindset going into the second half?
'Before half time I was frustrated and I knew I couldn't be frustrated for my team to win. I just focused on keeping myself together, keeping my teammates together and I knew I had to be the difference out there. I came out with a different mindset - an attack mindset, and I just played the game.'
On that last shot do you feel like you got a pretty good luck and it just didn't go in?
'Yes I mean I've made that shot so many times. I got past my defender.I thought it was going to go in but it didn't, but I'll take it any day.'

Little Rock Quotes

Head Coach Joe Foley
Opening Statement:
'Well I think you guys got to see a great ball game. I thought those were two great teams playing. I thought neither one of them had any quit in them. We got out to a good start. They got out to a good second half. We came back and did what we needed to do. No quit in these guys. You've got to give them credit. It was a heck of a ballgame.'
On the final possession
"We knew they were going to put the ball in (Taeler) Deer's hands. The defense broke down there for a few series. Mo' (Monique Townson) was playing the best she could, but we talked about it all day, you can't play (Taeler) Deer one-on-one. She was coming off those high screens at the top, and the post players weren't giving enough help, and that's how she went on that run. So we told them, she (Monique) has to get help. That's what made the difference in that possession.
On emotions during the championship
"That's part of the game. I told the team at halftime that there's a reason why both teams are here. We had an excellent first half, and they could have an excellent second half. This is going to be a good ball game. You have to play every possession. Unfortunately, our nemesis the whole year was the zone and we got passive, missed a few shots and missed a couple of 3s. It changed the momentum of the game; there's no doubt."
On going to the NCAA Tournament.
"It's just so refreshing to see the players in your program get to experience the NCAA Tournament on this level. That's why you run all those bleachers and run all those sprints at the beginning of the year. I tell them, I understand what you're going through. When you feel it at the end, you'll know what it's about. This is what carries your program forward."

SR - G - Monique Townson
On what it feels like to be Sun Belt Champions:
'There's no words to describe this moment. This is my senior year and there's nothing more I could ask for from my team and my coaches. Everything just came together at this very moment. All the hard work and everything we did this whole season just paid off.'
On defensive stand in the final seconds:
'I was just trying to focus on Coach Foley telling me to try to take away her strength. I was relying on my help and my teammates were there to help me when I needed help and I think that's what changed the game for us.'
On emotions throughout the momentum shift in the game:
'I think we've been in this situation quite a few times this year so it was more so (thinking) we've been here, we know what to do, and we're going to come here with this win. I think everybody just stuck together, stuck with our game plan, and we were ready for it.'

JR - F - Ronjanae DeGray (6'0''-F)
On regrouping to hold on to the lead in the end:
'We just knew we had to keep our composure and get the stops that we needed to get, defensively, for our team to win. We got the important stop that we needed for the game. (Now we're) champions.'
On emotions throughout the momentum shift in the game:
'Just letting all that go and play as calm as we can. Like (Monique Townson) said, we've been in this situation before where we're up and the team had the opportunity to either take the lead or tie the game up. (It's about) just staying calm and sticking to the game plan.'

Courtesy of SunBeltSports.org

Sun Belt Tournament Final:
Little Rock - Texas State 54-53
Sun Belt Tournament Semifinals:
Little Rock - Troy 66-63
Texas State - Louisiana 62-56   




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