NORTH LITTLE ROCK — In the first half of their game against the hosting Central Arkansas Christian Lady Mustangs at the annual OrthoArkansas/CAC Invitational Tournament, the Bryant Lady Hornets hit 10 of 15 free throws and they led most of the way.
They wound up trailing 17-16 at the half but they were that close because they were getting to the line. They actually were 0 for 12 from the field in the second quarter.
Particularly guard Lauren Carroll at the high post against the CAC zone, the Lady Hornets attacked the basket.
Defensively, meanwhile, they were frustrating Lady Mustangs’ stars Sydnie Jones and Chrityn Williams who combined from just 5 points and went to the locker room with three fouls each. The 6-1 Jones was countered by Bryant’s 6-1 Rachel Miller and some good help defense. And CAC went just 4 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Though the Lady Hornets didn’t change much at the half, somehow they only shot three free throws. The Lady Mustangs, even taking away the eight they attempted in the last 2:30 when the Lady Hornets were chasing and fouling, shot 11 free throws after intermission.
Williams wound up with 18 points and Jones 15. And between them, they only committed one foul in the second half. Guard Sarah Butler pitched in with 11 points as the Lady Mustangs wound up with a 49-41 win despite 16 from Carroll and 13 from Raija Todd.
The Lady Hornets were within 2 points as late as the 5:05 mark in the fourth quarter. They had a chance in the final minute, in fact. With :50.8 left, they trailed 45-39. After a timeout, Butler was fouled and missed both free throws, opening the door for Bryant to tighten the game. But, in the scramble for the rebound off the missed second shot, the ball was tied up. Unfortunately for the Lady Hornets, the possession arrow was pointing CAC’s way.
Bryant had to foul again and Williams converted 4 of 4 in the final :34.4 to extend the lead.
“They’re good,” declared Lady Hornets’ coach Brad Matthews. “They’ve got two high Division I players (Jones, Williams). CAC is so talented. The mistakes you make, they make sure you pay for them.
“I thought for a lot of the game, maybe 70, 80 percent of the game, our kids defended really well,” he added. “We had a little spurt where we started giving up some offensive rebounds. Us giving up offensive rebounds allowed them to get a little bit more offensive rhythm than what they’d had the rest of the game.”
That stretch came late in the third and early in the fourth. With 2:07 left in the period, a three-point play by Carroll had Bryant within 28-26. At the other end, the Lady Hornets harassed Jones into a miss but Williams rebounded and was fouled. Her free throws pushed the lead to 4.
A Bryant turnover — one of just nine committed in the game by the Lady Hornets (who forced CAC into 16) — led to a layup off a pick-and-roll for Jones. Bryant, in turn, missed a couple of opportunities to cut into the 36-32 deficit. Jakeria Otey missed a 3 then Carroll drove from the high post and missed. Despite contact, no foul was called.
At the buzzer ending the quarter, Jones scored off the offensive glass to make it 34-26.
And the Lady Hornets got a bad break when a foul was called off the ball at the buzzer. So instead of getting the ball to start the fourth quarter, it was awarded to the Lady Mustangs because of the foul.
And, sure enough, another offensive rebound hurt. Butler missed, Williams rebounded and was fouled. She hit the front end of the one-and-one and it was 35-26.
The Lady Hornets wouldn’t go away, though. Moments after Jones picked up her fourth foul, Carroll drove for a basket and Todd followed up with a 3 to cut it to 35-31.
Matthews called a timeout and Jones returned to the floor after sitting a minute or so. Bryant forced a turnover and Otey cashed it in, following her own miss for a bucket that had Bryant within 35-33 at the 5:05 mark.
Williams added two more free throws then the Lady Hornets missed two shots including one by Carroll on a drive (no foul). A driving jumper by Butler, followed by a Bryant miss inside, then another bucket by Butler off a nice give-and-go with Jones made it 41-33 and forced Matthews to call a timeout.
With 2:48 left, Todd canned a pull-up jumper from 15 and Otey made a steal. She was denied the basket but it took a foul to do it. The senior went to the line to shoot the only two free throws the Lady Hornets would attempt in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get either one to fall.
Williams traded baskets with Carroll then hit two free throws before Todd scored off a drive, making it 46-39 when Matthews called a final timeout with :51.7 showing.
“I’m proud of our kids’ effort, much better execution tonight compared to the last game at Rogers Heritage,” Matthews stated. “I thought we were much more aggressive. We’ve got to get quicker ball movement side to side, take gaps with our dribble.
“I’m seeing some good things out there,” he continued. “We’ve just got to continue to work to play as one unit offensively. I thought our initial defense was good. We’ve just got to do a better job of finishing our defense with solid rebounding and all five have to go to the boards and rebound.”
The Lady Hornets broke out to a 6-1 lead and didn’t allow a field goal until Butler hit a 3 with 1:54 left in the first quarter. A free throw off an offensive rebound by Miller made it 7-4 and, after Butler scored again, Carroll scored inside off a feed from Todd. CAC turned the ball over and Todd canned a 12-footer to make it 11-6 going into the second quarter.
Jones picked up her third foul with 5:22 left in the half and Miller cashed in one of the free throws. Williams cut it to 1 but Carroll was fouled and converted twice to keep the Lady Hornets ahead.
Williams picked up her third foul with 2:47 left but Butler drove for a layup and CAC had a 15-14 lead. Carroll knocked down two free throws with 1:54 left to put Bryant back in front. A pair at the line by Lauren Peoples gave the Lady Mustangs their 17-16 edge with 1:42 to go.
Both teams had chances to change the score after that but couldn’t get a shot to fall.
In the third quarter, CAC pushed out to a 7 point lead but, sparked by a 3 from Todd, Bryant rallied. Otey drilled a running jumper and Maddie Baxter made a steal that led to a basket by Miller. Jones hit a pair of free throws, which led to Carroll’s three-point play and a 2-point game.
The Lady Hornets continue the tournament today at 4 p.m., against Maumelle’s Lady Hornets. They’ll finish up Saturday at 2 p.m., against Camden Fairview.
“There’s definitely improvement and that’s what you want in November, December,” Matthews concluded. “It’s early in the season and I’m seeing progress. We’ve got to use these next two days to continue that progress. By Saturday afternoon when we’re done, we’ve got to make sure we’re a lot better team than we were today.”
LADY MUSTANGS 49, LADY HORNETS 41
Score by quarters
BRYANT 11 5 10 15 — 41
CAC 6 11 17 15 — 49
LADY HORNETS 41
Otey 2-17 2-4 6, Carroll 5-10 6-8 16, Baxter 0-5 0-0 0, Todd 5-13 1-2 13, R.Miller 1-2 2-4 4, Ridgell 1-1 0-0 2, Martin 0-4 0-0 0, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, McDowell 0-0 0-0 0, Patton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-52 (27%) 11-18 (61%) 41.
LADY MUSTANGS 49
Peoples 0-2 2-2 2, Williams 3-10 11-13 18, Davis 0-1 0-0 0, Higgins 0-1 1-2 1, Jones 5-10 5-6 15, Butler 5-14 0-2 11, K.Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Mashburn 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 14-39 (36%) 19-25 (76%) 49.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-13 (Todd 2-5, Otey 0-6, Baxter 0-2), CAC 2-9 (Butler 1-5, Williams 1-2, Peoples 0-1, Higgins 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 9, CAC 16. Rebounds: Bryant 16-15 31 (Carroll 4-3 7, Otey 3-2 5, Baxter 3-2 5, Todd 1-2 3, R.Miller 1-2 3, Ridgell 1-1 2, McDowell 0-2 2, Martin 1-0 1), CAC 14-24 38 (Williams 6-5 11, Jones 1-8 9, Peoples 5-1 6, Butler 0-5 5, Higgins 0-2 2, Davis 0-1 1, K.Miller 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 19, CAC 15.