After not playing for 10 days, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff women’s basketball team had a lot to show in Saturday’s home opener.
For one, it was the debut of maybe the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s most loaded backcourt, with Corina Carter joining the returning Zaay Green and Jelissa Reese.
The trio combined to score more than half of the Lady Lions’ points in a 118-51 victory over Texas A&M University-Texarkana at H.O. Clemmons Arena on Saturday.
Reese, who transferred from Troy University this past season, scored 25 points in her first double-figure game of the season. Reese shot 10 for 14 from the floor and pulled down 7 rebounds.
The home crowd finally got to see action from Green, the Lady Lions’ leading scorer two seasons ago. Out for all of the 2022-23 season due to a knee injury, Green nearly matched her season average with 23 points, making 10 of 17 from the floor, and adding 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
“I just wanted to show them I could still push the ball, look for my teammates, play how I’ve been playing for the last two years,” Green said.
She said it was tough sitting out last season, when she was the Preseason Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
“But any basketball player has to go through some type of adversity, and I went through that twice,” Green said. “I wanted to be back with the girls. That was my push.”
Carter, a former Virginia and New Mexico player, had 13 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Carter made 5 of 7 from the floor.
“It’s scary,” Reese said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do to guard us.”
UAPB (1-2) had not played since it opened this campaign with losses at Oregon State and Oregon on Nov. 6 and 8.
“I did the schedule, and I wanted to be able to start really, really hard,” fifth-year UAPB Coach Dawn Thornton said. “I thought that we were going to be able to compete, which we did a good job in Oregon. I wanted to be able to come back home and have a game the fans would be excited about watching so they would have an opportunity to go back and brag about.”
Maori Davenport, Kaila Walker scored 11 points each, and Kourtney Rittenberry scored 10. All three finished in double-doubles for UAPB. Davenport made 5 of 5 field goals.
UAPB never took it easy on A&M-Texarkana, a National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics team with a 1-4 record. The Lady Lions led wire-to-wire, led by as many as 71 points in the final stages of the game, and shot 54.1% (46 of 85) from the floor. They made 9 of 28 3-point shots and 17 of 27 free throws (63%).
“Offense is something that will come easy to us,” Thornton said. “I know people can tell that, but we want to be able to defend, and we want to be able to stop teams from being comfortable and getting in the flow of what they want to do.”
They also held the Eagles to 16-of-59 shooting (27.1%) from the floor, including a 4-for-15 clip from the 3-point line. The Eagles sank 15 of 19 free throws (78.9%).
Defense was the first thing the Lady Lions wanted to put on display Saturday, Reese said.
“We just wanted to make sure we didn’t play down to the level of competition,” she added.
UAPB had a 24-10 lead through one quarter and 61-22 halftime cushion. Carter made a running 3 at the end of the third quarter to put UAPB up 89-36.
UAPB scored 70 points in the paint and scored 26 on second chances. The fast-break game led the Lady Lions to 31 points.
Jaslyn Wood scored 19 points and totaled 5 rebounds for A&M-Texarkana, which played against an NCAA opponent for the first time this season. Kayla Williams and Semaj Adams each had 9 points.
UAPB will play Tulsa in the Van Chancellor Classic in Katy, Texas, starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday. That’ll be followed by a game against Mississippi State at 4 p.m. Saturday, and the finale at 3:15 p.m. Sunday against Clemson.
By design, the Lady Lions are taking a 6-day break similar to what they’ll experience should they qualify for the SWAC tournament this season. UAPB reached the championship game last March, its highest finish since rejoining the conference in 1997.
UAPB will not be at home again until Dec. 1 against Arkansas Baptist College.