Courtesy: UTSA Athletics Communications
KATY — Senior Ashleigh Franklin scored a career-high 33 points, including a Southland Conference Tournament-record 15 free throws, and also pulled down 14 rebounds to help No. 4 seed UTSA defeat fifth-seeded Sam Houston State, 69-61, in Tuesday's last quarterfinal at the Merrell Center.
Fellow senior Amber Gregg added 14 points to lead the Roadrunners (16-14) to their first conference tournament victory since the 2009 championship game.
"Ashleigh can take over a game, but I've never seen her do it like she
did tonight," head coach Rae Ripptoe-Blair said. "She was determined to
find a way to help us win."
Sequeena Thomas paced the Bearkats (17-14) with a double-double of 19 points and 15 rebounds.
UTSA opened the game on fire and scored 16 of the first 19 points, a stretch that also was fueled by strong defense. Gregg opened the contest with the 199th 3-pointer of her career and Franklin recorded seven points during the stretch.
Sam Houston connected on just one of its first 11 attempts from the field and committed three turnovers.
After the lead was trimmed to five, Franklin hit back-to-back trifectas to push the advantage back to double digits.
However, the Bearkats battled back with a pair of 5-0 runs and they held UTSA without a field goal for the final 7:51 of the half.
With 1.6 seconds on the clock and following a Gregg turnover under the Birds' basket, Chanice Smith fired a pass to Thomas, who caught the ball just past half court and banked in a desperation heave to pull Sam Houston State within one, 33-32, at the half.
Franklin finished with 19 points in the stanza, which was aided by nine free throws in as many attempts, and she added eight boards.
The Bearkats took their first lead after scoring the first four points of the second frame.
UTSA responded by scoring eight of the next 10 to regain a 44-38 advantage, only to see Sam Houston go on an 11-3 run to go back in front.
The Bearkats held a lead once more at 56-53, but UTSA scored 10 in a row to take control for good. Jumpers by Gregg and Franklin ignited the stretch and the pair scored 13 of the team’s final 16 points.
UTSA converted four of five free throws in the final two minutes to advance to the semifinals where they will meet Regular Season Champion McNeese State (24-6) at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Cowgirls defeated Southeastern Louisiana, 65-55, in the evening's first contest. UTSA dopped a 72-43 decision in Lake Charles, La., on Feb. 16 in the only meeting between the two teams this season.
In addition to her double-double, Franklin had more than half of the Roadrunners’ assists (four) and added a steal in playing the full 40 minutes.
"I haven't had a game like this since high school, but this is college,
so it's more important," Franklin said. "The most important part was
that we won."