Entering the season with three players selected to the preseason All-SWAC first or second team, the Grambling State Lady Tigers had high expectations, and that hasn't changed.
The three guards that received preseason honors, Monisha Hill, Shakyla Hill and Darae Taylor, led the Lady Tigers to a 66-57 win over the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Lady Lions Saturday.
The three combined for 30 of Grambling's 66 points, and it was the defensive pressure applied from their press that ultimately was the difference in the outcome. UAPB committed 33 turnovers compared to GSU's 11.
Grambling’s Shakya Hill became a national sensation earlier this season as she recorded the first women's quadruple-double in nearly 25 years with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals against Alabama State.
From the start, the Lady Lions came out playing with a high level of energy, but the Lady Tigers hung in there and weathered the first flurry thrown by UAPB. It was clear that UAPB Head Coach Nate Kilbert wanted to take advantage of Grambling's lack of a rim protector by driving straight to the hole. Neither team was able to put together a meaningful run in quarter one, and UAPB held a 13-11 lead heading into quarter two.
The Lady Lions came out and went on a 7-2 to open quarter two. That's when Grambling interim Head Coach Freddie Murray decided to go with a five-woman platoon swap.
UAPB sophomore guard Aiya El Hassan connected from downtown, and moments later senior guard Malaik Muhammad followed her up with a triple of her own. That opened up a 32-21 lead for the Golden Lions, but the Tigers answered quickly.
To close the first half, Grambling went on an 8-0 run, and S. Hill scored four of her eight first-half points in the final minute. At halftime UAPB held a slim 32-29 lead.
Muhammad opened up second half scoring with a deep three pointer. Also, UAPB junior forward Shawntayla Harris began to win her match up in the paint as Grambling simply didn't offer much resistance.
However, Grambling's play from their guards was superb throughout the game. Lady Tigers freshman Justice Coleman scored their first points of the second half on a three pointer that sparked a 9-0 run. Murray felt the need to turn the heat up on defense, and it prevailed. The full court defensive pressure applied by Grambling forced UAPB into traps that resulted in turnovers.
Heading into the final quarter, Grambling held a slim 53-49 lead. UAPB senior guard Destiny Brewton went down with an apparent leg injury with 8:04 to play, and she didn't return.
Grambling's Neal connected on their fifth three pointer of the game. The backcourt of the Lady Tigers was all over the place, including mixing it up inside for second chance opportunities.
The Grambling pressure forced UAPB to turn it over at will and in all the Lady Lions accounted for 33 turnovers, with a majority of them coming in the second half when UAPB needed to take care of the ball the most.
Grambling's Shakyla Hill and Monisha Neal both scored a team-high 11 points.
Shawntayala Harris led all scorers for the Lady Lions with 10 points.