UAPB to face Alcorn, SWAC-leading JSU

UAPB guard Zaay Green attacks the rim while guarded by Bethune-Cookman center Kayla Clark during a Jan. 22 women's basketball game at H.O. Clemmons Arena in Pine Bluff. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
UAPB guard Zaay Green attacks the rim while guarded by Bethune-Cookman center Kayla Clark during a Jan. 22 women's basketball game at H.O. Clemmons Arena in Pine Bluff. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)

The top two women's basketball teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference will meet in Pine Bluff on Monday.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will return to H.O. Clemmons Arena to face Alcorn State at 12:05 p.m. Saturday before hosting first-place Jackson State on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

UAPB coach Dawn Thornton said UAPB, as usual, won't start preparing for its Monday foe until after finishing Saturday's game. The early loss at Texas Southern, she said, reminds the Lady Lions never to overlook anyone.

"We're going to focus 100 percent on Alcorn," Thornton said. "Securing five wins in a row will bring us all the amount of focus that we need going into Monday. We'll have, possibly, a longer film session on Sunday, but other than that, that won't change. We won't put one before the other."

UAPB (12-10, 7-2 SWAC) enters the weekend in second place and on a four-game winning streak, which includes wins against three of the SWAC's top six teams.

Senior center Maori Davenport left UAPB's last game with an apparent head injury. Thornton said Davenport will not play Saturday, but her status for Monday has not been determined.

Jackson State (14-6, 9-0) is coming off a 71-63 win against Grambling State and a 63-58 win against Southern. Before that, the Lady Tigers dominated their first seven SWAC opponents by an average of 25.7 points. JSU will face Mississippi Valley State on the road Saturday before traveling to UAPB.

JSU has won three-straight regular season SWAC championships, losing just two regular season conference games. JSU also won the SWAC tournament in 2021 and 2022 but fell in the semifinals last year.

Thornton said JSU's experience in big games makes them tough to beat.

"They've learned how to win together, and they know how to close out games," Thornton said. "When you have teams that's been playing so well together for so long, those are the type of teams that you just don't put away. You can't put them away. You have to play them for 40 minutes."

UAPB and JSU are at or near the top of the SWAC in most categories. They are the top two teams in scoring and rebounding. Defensively, JSU ranks first and UAPB fifth.

These teams feature the top two assisters in the SWAC, UAPB guard Zaay Green and JSU guard Keshuna Luckett, as well as the top two shot blockers, UAPB center Maya Peat and JSU post Angel Jackson.

Green said the Lady Lions must play their brand of basketball to have a chance against JSU.

"Defense, that's how we win our games every time," Green said. "Offense, I feel like that's natural to us. But other than that, if we stay on our Ps and Qs on the defensive end, we'll be fine."

Before the Lady Lions get their shot at JSU on Monday, they will host Alcorn State (4-16, 2-7) on Saturday. Alcorn has lost five straight games entering the weekend. The Lady Braves are led by forward Destiny Brown and guard Zy'nyia White. Both are top-six in the SWAC in scoring, and Brown has the best shooting percentage in the SWAC in conference play, 51.6 percent.

Thornton said defense will be key against Alcorn.

"That's what we've been doing for these last few games, which [is] why we feel like we've been in rhythm so well," Thornton said. "In order to be able to make this a competitive game, we're going to have to defend."

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