Little Rock (LR) basketball is in New Orleans this week ahead of the Sun Belt Conference Championships which start Wednesday. The men’s Trojans (7-24, 4-14 conf.) tip off Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. versus Appalachian State, while the regular-season Sun Belt champion women (20-9, 17-1 conf.) tip off Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. versus Appalachian State’s women.
Rough season for men
LR men’s basketball is coming off a tough season and enter the tournament dead last as the twelfth-seed. Their opponent, fifth-seeded Appalachian State, finished the season 14-17 and won five of their last seven games entering the week.
Despite the disappointing season, LR finished strong, winning in overtime 72-61 against regular-season conference champions Louisiana. The upset win dashed Louisiana’s perfect home record and was only the Ragin’ Cajuns second conference loss.
The men will need significant production from all members of the team to make noise in the tournament. To the Trojans’ advantage, seven players average between six and eight points a game, while four freshmen play significant minutes for the team.
LR will miss freshman Damir Hadzic who is away in his native Bosnia after the death of his father. Hadzic started 11 games this season.
LR faces a steep test in advancing beyond the first game of the tournament. However, the overtime win versus Louisiana will no doubt boost confidence, crucial for the Trojans if they want to make a run in New Orleans.
Despite success, women looking for more
LR women’s basketball enters the tournament on the heels of a historic season which saw them go 17-1 in the conference and clinch the regular season conference title.
The campaign, marked by two multi-game winning streaks, one five games and the other 12, essentially guaranteed the women a postseason appearance. No matter the results in New Orleans, the women will likely compete in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). Despite that, the Trojans want more.
LR’s opponent in their first game, Appalachian State, finished 7-22 and enter the tournament the ninth seed.
LR arrives in New Orleans following a five-game winning streak to finish the season and won, like the men, in overtime versus Louisiana Saturday.
Leading the Trojans are seniors Monique Townson and Keanna Keys. Townson has started all 29 games this year, while Keys has started 27. Townson leads the team in assists, averaging four a game, while Keys is averaging almost nine points a game.
Ronjanae DeGray, despite only starting 10 of 28 games, leads the Trojans in scoring, averaging almost 14 points a game.
LR is one of the favorites in New Orleans following an impressive season. Despite LR’s success, don’t ignore Texas State. The Bobcats finished 21-8 this year and could be a tricky opponent if LR meets them in New Orleans.