HOUSTON — The road back to Houston goes through Pine Bluff.
The University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff women's basketball team was within four points of Southwestern Athletic Conference power Texas Southern with 35 seconds remaining, but the Lady Tigers earned a 58-52 win on Monday night at Health & Physical Education Arena.
The Lady Lions (3-14, 1-6) have plans to return to Houston for the SWAC Tournament Quarterfinals on March 6 at the Delmar Center. The top eight teams (out of 10 qualify), and they're currently ninth.
"We need to start our run to the SWAC Tournament during our homestand, which begins on Saturday vs. Grambling State," UAPB Women's Basketball Head Coach Nate Kilbert said after UAPB's sixth consecutive loss.
The Lady Lions will play the next four games (and six of the next eight) at home.
Monday's loss against SWAC Championship contender TSU (10-8, 5-2) mirrored Saturday's loss at Prairie View. The Lady Lions would cut the lead to five or six, before the Lady Tigers answered.
Kilbert pointed to UAPB's missed free throws (they were 13 for 22) as one of the factors.
"We missed too many free throws," Kilbert said. "We had a lot of open looks, and we didn't finish them."
UAPB outshot TSU, 32.7 percent to 30.8 percent, but lost the rebounding battle, 43-37.
Lady Lions senior forward Shawntayla Harris (10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks) was one rebound short of a double-double.
Harris, who returned on Saturday after missing four games with a shoulder injury, is glad to be back in the starting lineup.
"I'm adjusting really well," Harris said. "There's a lot of soreness on my shoulder, but I'm always ready to go. This was one of our better road trips. We're only going to get better from here."
Junior forward Faith Ohanta finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, including three free throws that cut the lead to 56-52 with 35 seconds left. Ohanta, who graduated from high school in the Houston area, had several family and friends at the game supporting her.
Senior guard Destiny Brewton finished with 11 points, and junior guard Kye Richardson — a former Pine Bluff High standout — added five points.
Kilbert knew that if the Lady Lions were going to stay in contention they'd have to defend TSU junior guard Joyce Kennerson, who entered the game as the leading scorer in NCAA Division I with 25.6 points per game.
The Lady Lions held Kennerson to a game-high 18 points.
"You try to keep the ball out of her hands, but that's almost impossible," Kilbert said.
TSU improved to 27-18 in the series — year after the Lady Lions registered a regular season sweep of the Lady Tigers.
The teams will meet again on Feb. 19 in Pine Bluff.