The Little Rock women’s basketball team, the nation’s fourth-best scoring defense, has won their first Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) regular season championship, claiming a piece of history at the same time.
The Little Rock Trojans became the first Ohio Valley Conference program to win a championship during its first season in the league, with the Trojans having officially joined the OVC in July 2022. This also marks the Trojans’ 13th regular season title in the past 16 years.
“All championships are great, but this one is pretty special because of COVID and not being able to play the way we wanted to the last two years,” Head Coach Joe Foley said.
Little Rock, which has secured the No. 1 seed, now gets a double-round bye to the OVC Tournament. Heading to the semifinals of their conference tournament for the 15th time in the past 16 years – the third-longest streak in the country – Little Rock now awaits the results of the first two rounds of OVC Tournament play. The Trojans will play at 1 p.m. Friday, March 3, in Evansville, Indiana, against an opponent yet to be determined.
Coach Foley continued to earn his title as the winningest coach in the state of Arkansas. The Trojans’ 58-50 victory over Southern Indiana University Feb. 16 at the Jack Stephens Center secured his 850th career victory, third-most among active Division I coaches. Although Coach Foley says that “850 is just another number.”
Little Rock’s Team closed out its regular season play with a 64-50 victory over Lindenwood University on Feb. 25. Little Rock forced 20 Lindenwood turnovers to reach 20 wins for the 13th time in the past 20 years as the OVC regular season champions put a tidy bow on the regular season, their first in the league.
“It is very exciting for our women’s basketball program to have excelled like they did in our first year as members of the Ohio Valley Conference, but it is hardly surprising,” UA Little Rock Director of Athletics George Lee said. “Coach Foley always does an incredible job of preparing his ladies for success in everything they do, including winning championships. I know that coach thinks 850 may just be a number. We are incredibly proud of all the achievements he has had at Little Rock, but I also know that he and his team are not content with just a regular season title. If anything, this will only fuel their desire to win a tournament championship even more.”
The Trojans have received many accolades for their recent victories. Trojan forward Sali Kourouma was named the OVC’s Co-Player of the Week during the last two weeks of the regular season for her part in securing the regular season championship and an undefeated record at home in league play.
Additionally, Little Rock was also named the National Team of the Week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association for games ending Feb. 19. This marks the first time Little Rock has received the national recognition and the first time an Ohio Valley Conference team – men’s or women’s – has been named the National Team of the Week.
Just two days later, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association named Little Rock forward Angelique Francis as the 2023 recipient of the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award for her work as a mental health advocate. She will be honored at the upcoming Women’s Final Four in Dallas. This award also marks the first time an Ohio Valley Conference player has won such a national award.
“I don’t know any kid that deserves it more than she does,” Coach Foley said. “I’m glad they recognized her, and I’m glad for what she’s done for herself and our basketball team.”
As a 15-year-old, Francis began a foundation called ALF – which stands for Angelique Lizette Francis – to help youth dealing with abuse. She delivers motivational speeches to local schools and appeared at the Save AR Students Rally Focused on Preventing Substance Misuse, speaking on the steps of the state capitol building alongside former Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
“It is truly an honor and blessing to receive this award, one that is named after an icon,” Francis said. “I hope that my journey helps to inspire others to never give up and to keep pushing because you have a purpose in life. I want to thank my family for all the love and support, as well as my coaching staff, teammates and everyone who has believed in my vision. Thank you to the USBWA for this amazing opportunity. And for anyone out there that ever has doubts, know that you are valued and loved.”
Written by Angelita Faller and Patrick Walsh
Photo Credit: Little Rock Trojans
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