Cotton Blossoms split conference games

Coaches and athletes expect to go through highs and lows during a season. It’s just not very often they occur two days apart.
The University of Arkansas at Monticello women’s basketball pendulum swung from very low—an 82-65 drubbing at the hands of Southern Nazarene University last Thursday—to very high—an 89-86 overtime win over Oklahoma Baptist University on Saturday—that left the Cotton Blossoms at 5-5 overall, 2-4 in Great American Conference play.  
And it doesn’t get any easier for the rebuilding Blossoms. GAC-leading Harding University visits Steelman Field House at 5:30 p.m. Thursday as UAM completes a five-game home stand (with an exhibition game thrown in on New Year’s Eve).
Then, it’s on the road for three games, the first of which is at 1 p.m. Saturday at second-place Henderson State University. After a trip to Magnolia to face rival Southern Arkansas University at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, the Blossoms return to Arkadelphia to face third-place Ouachita Baptist University at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19.  
“Obviously, we needed this one,” UAM head women’s coach Tanya Ray said after the Oklahoma Baptist contest. “Going into next week, it’s going to be a tremendous challenge having Harding come in here, then having to go on the road to Henderson.
“It never stops. This is a good league. Teams are good and you have to be ready to play every night.”
Sixteen lead changes showed Saturday’s game was a back-and-forth affair. Oklahoma Baptist’s biggest lead was three points in the second quarter, while UAM’s biggest was nine points in the third. It pretty much seemed like whichever team had the ball last would win.
“It seemed that way,” Ray agreed. “We’re just glad they had a couple of shots at the end that didn’t go in. For us, we’re going to have to play this way. If we can come out of the right side of it, it will be good. We’re a possession-by-possession team. I’m not sure we’ll ever run away and beat people; we’ve got to make sure we do the things we do that will help us down the stretch. We did that today.
“I thought we came out focused and ready to go. This was a ‘must win’ game for us—we had to have this one. We knew we kind of let that one (Thursday) night slip away; we didn’t play as well as we needed to. We got down early, then it was hard to make the climb back. Today, I thought we did a really good job of coming out to start the game with a lot of energy. Even in the second half, I thought we did some good things.
“In the fourth quarter we made a lot of mental errors—some turnovers, some missed assignments. But we got a second breath in overtime and I thought we did a good job. We handled the things we needed to do. We executed and made plays in overtime.”
Junior Brittnee Broadway led a balanced UAM scoring attack against Oklahoma Baptist with 19 points. Four teammates also reached double figures. Senior Nelsha Peterson closely followed Broadway with 18 points. Sophomore Ayesha Wahid netted 16, and sophomore Mia Hayes and junior Taylor Collins chipped in with 11 points each.
Thursday, it was totally a different story. The Crimson Storm hit the Blossoms early, late and often en route to the 17-point win. The turning point, however, came in the latter part of the first and the entire second quarters.
Southern Nazarene outscored UAM 29-10 over that stretch to assume an insurmountable 41-28 advantage by halftime. The hosts assisted their visitors by not collecting an offensive rebound for the whole second 10 minutes.  
“We did a lot more than dig a hole for ourselves,” Ray lamented Thursday. “We didn’t do a lot of offensive anything in the second quarter, including scoring buckets. That’s the thing with this team this year. It’s kind of been a roller coaster—we have really bad moments and we have really, really bad moments.
“We were fortunate the past few years to have a person (graduated All-American Jordan Goforth) we knew that we could count on.
“We’re still trying to find that person or persons right now. We’re still in the position where we’ve got some people that are new to that position of being ‘the man,’ so to speak. We’re still trying to figure those things out and it shows.
“When we’re doing things real well, everything’s great. With this team, though, when things start to go down, we don’t always handle things very well. We’ve got to get better and we’ve got to get better quickly.”
Peterson posted a career day offensively with 27 total points, shooting 11-for-23 from the field. Broadway and her junior teammate, Treasure Evans, each chipped in with 11 points.

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