Alysha Clark powers Middle Tennessee to Sun Belt Championship

Box Score

Post Game Press Conference, Sun Belt Championship Game – Middle Tennessee vs. University of Arkansas-Little Rock, March 9, 2010

From the Sun Belt Conference:

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Alysha Clark scored 48 points, including the winning layup with 1.8 seconds left in overtime, to lead Middle Tennessee to a 70-68 victory over Arkansas-Little Rock in the Sun Belt tournament title game Tuesday.

Clark set the tournament’s single-game scoring record for a third straight game and finished with a three-game total of 132 points. The Blue Raiders (25-5) needed every basket to hold off top-seeded UALR (26-6) and earn their 13th NCAA tournament bid.

The Trojans, who had won 21 straight games, fought back from a seven-point deficit in overtime to tie it on Channon Haywood’s two free throws with 29.4 seconds remaining.

With the shot clock off, Middle Tennessee found Clark, who was guarded under the basket but managed to score with a quick, powerful move.

For two days, Clark had been trading scoring records with UALR’s Chastity Reed. Clark’s 40 points in the quarterfinals Sunday set a tournament mark, which was broken the following day when Reed scored 41 in the early semifinal. Clark answered with 44 in the second semifinal.

Clark easily broke her own tournament record of 92 total points from last year, and her final shot was a typical one. At 5-foot-10, she can score with both hands and doesn’t need much time or space to get a shot off inside. She carried her team for lengthy stretches Tuesday and received just enough help down the stretch to give Middle Tennessee its sixth title in seven years at this tournament.

Middle Tennessee was playing in its eighth straight Sun Belt title game.

UALR led 52-44 with 7:20 remaining in regulation after Reed made a shot from around the free throw line while drawing Clark’s fourth foul. Reed missed the ensuing free throw, and Clark answered with eight straight points to tie it. Brandi Brown then sank a 3-pointer — her first points of the game — to put the Blue Raiders ahead 55-52, and Clark’s two free throws pushed the lead to five.

The Trojans fought back, though. Asriel Rolfe made a 3-pointer and then a driving layup to tie it at 59, and neither team scored for the rest of regulation. Middle Tennessee’s Jackie Pickel missed from the perimeter in the final seconds of the second half.

Middle Tennessee led 68-61 in overtime before UALR made one last push, scoring seven straight points.

Middle Tennessee beat UALR by 20 in last year’s title game, but the Trojans won by the same margin when the teams played earlier this season.

The Blue Raiders not only snapped UALR’s long winning streak, but they extended their own to 16.

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