Leader Blues

Friday, March 26, 2010

SPORTS >> Sitzmann, UALR fall short of Sweet 16

UALR guard Kim Sitzmann, of Cabot, lines up a free throw during a regular season game.

By BRANDY SWEEDEN

UALR sports information

NORMAN, Okla.—The UALR women’s basketball team ended the team’s first NCAA Tournament trip with a 60-44 loss to No. 3 seed Oklahoma on Tuesday before 6,305 at the Lloyd Nobel Center.

A shooting outage in the first half cost the Trojans, who finished the season at 27-7.

“First of all, I am completely proud of our kids for the second half and coming back,” head coach Joe Foley said. “In the second half, we came back and played with a lot of intensity and made some plays. I think we just got back on our heels in the first half and missed some shots that we normally hit.”

Junior Chastity Reed led the team with 20 points, while junior Shanika Butler and sophomore Marian Kursh contributed nine points each. Butler also led the team with six rebounds.

Cabot’s Kim Sitzmann, UALR’s all-time leader in assists and steals, scored just two points in her final game after scoring 21 to lead UALR in its first-round victory over Georgia Tech.

Oklahoma, which advances to face Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 on Sunday, held UALR to the fewest points in the first half all season, outscoring the Trojans 11-0 over a six-minute stretch to take a 28-13, halftime lead.

Oklahoma opened the half with a layup by Amanda Thompson, before Reed answered with a jumper to tie the score with 18:41 left.

After an Oklahoma basket, Reed made back-to-back jumpers to give UALR its first lead, 6-4.

With 16:40 left, the Sooners started a 6-0 run featuring four points from Carlee Roethlisberger to take the 10-6 lead. Both teams committed turnovers, before Reed made two free throws for UALR’s first points in four minutes.

Back-to-back layups by Oklahoma pushed the team’s lead to four, before a layup by Kursh with 10:04 left gave the Trojans their first field goal in over seven minutes.

After a free throw and layup by the Sooners, Reed made a jumper for the Trojans and Butler made a free throw to cut the Sooners’ lead to 17-13 with 5:44 until the half.

UALR was also plagued by 15 first-half turnovers.

Reed opened the second half with a jumper, before the Sooners answered with a layup by Abi Olajuwon. The teams exchanged points, with Kursh scoring for UALR and Olajuwon scoring for Oklahoma to make the Sooners’ lead 32-19 with 17:36 on the clock.

After a steal by Sitzmann, Britteni Williams scored on a putback to cut the lead to 32-21. Oklahoma made two free throws, before a block and fastbreak layup by Butler made the score to 34-23 with 14:11 remaining.

Over the next three minutes, the Sooners outscored the Trojans 6-2, getting four points from Thompson for the 40-25 lead.

A layup by Butler sparked a 9-4 Trojans run to cut the Oklahoma lead to 44-34 with 6:48 on the clock.

But Oklahoma managed to maintain at least a 10-point lead. With 2:13 on the clock, Olajuwon made a layup and free throw to push the Sooners’ lead to 55-42 and they outscored the Trojans 5-2 in the final 1:33.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better year,” Sitzmann said. “Obviously going to the Sweet 16 would have been pretty nice, but to have the ride that we had, I think we put UALR on the map this year.”

Sitzmann entered the year first on UALR’s all-time steals chart with 189 and improved that record to 243 this season. She began the year with a school record 327 assists and winds up her career with 430.

A 5-10 guard, Sitzmann averaged 21 points, four assists, six rebounds and three steals as a senior at Cabot.

At UALR this year she averaged 10.4 points, just over three assists and 1.6 steals.

Sitzmann has been a mainstay of a UALR team that, under Foley, has steadily risen to prominence after the team went 5-23, 0-14 Sun Belt in 2002-03, the last season under Tracey Stewart-Lange.

The Trojans won their first Sun Belt tournament game in 2005, reached the WNIT the past two seasons and finally got a first NCAA Tournament bid this year.