Danny Johnston, Associated Press
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Chastity Reed scored 22 points to help Arkansas-Little Rock book a return trip to the NCAA Tournament with a 66-59 win over Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game Tuesday.
The Trojans (23-7) received an at-large bid to the tournament last year after losing to Middle Tennessee in the conference title game. As a No. 11 seed, they defeated Georgia Tech in the opening round before falling to Oklahoma.
Reed, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, scored 10 of UALR's first 15 points Tuesday and had a pair of key assists late. Ahead 58-57, Reed found Marian Kursh underneath for back-to-back baskets that gave the Trojans a 62-59 lead.
Western Kentucky's Amy McNear, who led the Lady Toppers (15-17) with 24 points, missed a 3-point attempt on the next possession and UALR sealed the win at the free throw line.
Reed finished with 12 points in the first half despite sitting out the final few minutes with two fouls. The Trojans used her early contributions to build a 21-14 lead, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Asriel Rolfe and Shanika Butler.
Western Kentucky rallied from the early deficit with a 12-2 run. Keisha Mosley had seven points during that stretch, including a three-point play under that basket that gave the Lady Toppers a 24-23 lead. McNear followed with a jumper to cap the run and put Western Kentucky up 26-23.
Reed was called for her second foul shortly after that and sat out the final few minutes of the first half, which ended tied 30-30. She returned to start the second half and hit a jumper from the free throw line on UALR's opening possession to go up 32-30.
That started a 6-0 run that put the Trojans up 36-30, one the Lady Toppers answered with a 10-0 run of their own to take back the lead at 40-36. McNear and Arnika Brown combined for all of the points during the run for Western Kentucky.
After a drive by Reed to pull UALR within 40-38, the two teams stayed within two points of each other until a three-point play by Janette Merriex put the Trojans up 58-55.
McNear answered with a layup to close the Lady Toppers within 58-57, but Reed followed with the back-to-back assists to Kursh in the closing minutes. Now UALR is back in the NCAA Tournament.
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