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Little Rock making name for itself in Sun Belt Conference

Little Rock guard Kyra Collier, center, is the Trojans’ second-leading scorer and averages better than two steals per game. (Matthew Hinton / AP)
Little Rock guard Kyra Collier, center, is the Trojans’ second-leading scorer and averages better than two steals per game. (Matthew Hinton / AP)

Whatever you want to call them, the Trojans know how to win.

Officially known as the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the school also goes by Little Rock or just UALR. It is a public university with an enrollment of about 12,000 and was established in 1927.

However, the women’s basketball program has made quite a mark in the Sun Belt Conference.

On Saturday, the Trojans outlasted South Alabama, 57-56, to win their second straight conference tournament and clinch an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Twelfth-seeded Little Rock (21-10) will face 16th-ranked Gonzaga in a first-round game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Corvallis, Oregon.

The winner will face host Oregon State or Boise State in a second-round game at Gill Coliseum on the OSU campus.

With an RPI of 61 and no high-profile wins, Little Rock would not have made the field without beating South Alabama.

The Trojans got the eventual game-winner on a layin from Kyra Collier with one minute, seven seconds to play. South Alabama misfired on two shots in the final minute.

Little Rock tied with UT-Arlington for the regular-season title at 15-3. The Trojans have won six straight going into the NCAA Tournament.

“We know they’ve been playing really well,” Gonzaga forward Zykera Rice said Monday afternoon, after the bracket unveiling.

Out of 32 conferences in Division I, the Sun Belt ranks 12th in RPI while the West Coast Conference is seventh.

Statistically, Little Rock ranks 22nd out of 349 Division I teams in scoring defense, giving up just 56.5 points a game.

The Trojans also shoot well: 43 percent from the field. However, they’re reluctant to shoot from long range, attempting only 297 shots all year to rank 344th.

Little Rock had an ambitious nonconference schedule, but lost badly to a trio of SEC teams during an eight-game stretch in late November: 61-40 to Texas A&M, 60-45 at LSU and 98-63 to two-time NCAA finalist Mississippi State.

The Trojans and Zags have one common opponent: Missouri State, both on the road. GU beat MSU 70-67 on Dec. 16; two weeks later, Little Rock lost 48-44, in their second-lowest-scoring game of the year.

Little Rock is led by senior forward Ronjanae DeGray, a 6-foot senior who averages 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds, both team highs.

Collier, a 5-9 junior guard, is right behind at 14.5ppg. She also has 96 assists and averages better than two steals per game.

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