BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In the third meeting between programs on the season, No. 2 seed Alabama A&M women's basketball program fell to No. 7 seed Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-55 in the opening game of the TIAA SWAC Basketball Tournament.
In a tight game throughout, the game was decided in the final two minutes, as UAPB outscored the Bulldogs 12-2 over the span, also holding them to just 26.3 percent from the floor in the final quarter.
Second Team All-SWAC forward Amani Free led the Bulldogs with 17 points and six rebounds in 36 minutes, followed by Toni Grace who finished with 14 points and three assists in the loss.
After a pair of free throws from Chynell Mitchell to open the scoring nearly two minutes into the contest, the Bulldogs got off to a strong start, taking a 14-6 lead into the first media timeout at the 4:52 mark.
The offense slowed for both sides going forward in the quarter, with Arkansas-Pine Bluff closing the gap to 16-12, before Free hit a corner jumper just before the close of the frame to give A&M a 18-12 lead heading into the second.
UAPB gained some momentum early in the second, starting the quarter on a 5-0 run, forcing five A&M turnovers. After a fast break score from Jayla Cody to end the scoreless stint, the Golden Lions tied the game at 20-20 and later took a 23-20 lead with just over five minutes to play in the half.
From there, Arkansas-Pine Bluff continued their run, as Demetria Shephard hit. her third three-pointer of the game, followed by a second chance basket to push the game to 30-22 and forcing a called timeout.
The Bulldogs responded on their first possession out of the break, however the hot shooting continued for UAPB as they hit another three in response on their way to taking the first double figure lead of the contest at 34-24 at the 2:39 mark of the quarter.
On the next trip down the floor, Free scored inside off an assist from Cody. After a defensive stop, freshman Emajin McCallop drove in and converted a three-point play to get within five, before a basket from UAPB gave them a 36-29 edge at the half.
Alabama A&M picked up the defense to open the second half, forcing five turnovers and holding their opponent scoreless for the first five minutes of the third as they got within a point at 36-35.
The Golden Lions scored their first points of the third with a three at the four-minute mark to regain the edge, before Cody hit a mid-range jumper to get back within a possession at 39-37 with just over three minutes to play in the quarter.
The Bulldogs regained the advantage soon after, following a pair of free throws from Darian Burgin and one from Grace to take a 40-39 lead, a margin that remained heading into the final quarter.
The lead changed hands three times to start the fourth, before the teams found themselves tied at. 44-44 with 7:32 to play. A minute later, Free gave A&M a lead again with a pair of free throws, however UAPB responded on their next offensive trip, tying the game at 46-46.
The game remained tight until the final two minutes, as the Golden Lions went on a 12-2 run to close out the game, not allowing a field goal until a three from A&M with under 30 seconds to go in the 62-55 win.