LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Academy of Art showed it was ready to contend with the elite, knocking off No. 17 Pittsburgh State 82-73 as part of Dixie State’s Las Vegas Challenge. Led by a career-high 23 points from freshman Regina Camera inside Orleans Arena on Tuesday, the Urban Knights built a 42-30 halftime lead and used their signature pressure defense to score 24 points off turnovers in the win.
“I’m so proud of this team for coming out and executing what we had talked about all week,” head coach LaNay Larson said. “It started with our defense in the first half. Our pressure was good and we defended well in the half-court.”
ART U wasted little time executing its defensive gameplan against Coach Larson’s alma mater, managing to score eight points off seven turnovers. Four different Urban Knights contributed to that run capped by a free throw from senior Jordan Rogers which made gave Academy of Art a 9-4 lead.
“[Tuesday] we had been practicing to make certain defensive changes,” Camera said. “We knew this was a huge game and that this was a great team, so we knew defense was the key to this win.”
The push soon became 11-2 as Camera picked a Gorilla pocket then hit freshman Sha’Nice Storey for a fastbreak layup. Storey would repay the favor following a block by senior Nicol Biesek as Camera was the recipient of an easy two of her own. Pitt State did not go lightly, however, and responded with a 10-0 run to eventually tie it and take a 16-15 lead itself.
That advantage only lasted briefly as a jumper by senior Katy Wade and layup from Storey elevated ART U 23-19. The Gorillas’ Hailey Roderique made a strong effort to keep her squad close, getting to the foul line and eventually tying the game once again 27-27.
Approaching the end of the opening half, ART U proceeded to unleash a 15-3 run which ended up being the difference in the game. It began with a pair of free throws from junior Alisa Griggs and was furthered by more fastbreak points from freshman Jasmin Guinn and Rogers. Down the stretch, Rogers seemed to be everywhere, blocking a shot at one point and then making free throws as well as a layup late.
At halftime, Academy of Art held its largest lead to that point, up 42-30. It was more impressive play in the early portion of the second half as Camera scored five quick points to extend the run to 20-3. Freshman Zoie Sheng converted a jumper to further the Knights’ versatile scoring threat and it was soon a 17-point lead.
Once again, the Gorillas began to gain momentum with a 6-0 run that forced ART U to call a 30-second timeout. After the break, back-to-back triples by Camera and Rogers quickly erased that comeback. The long range barrage came after neither team had made a 3-pointer in the opening half.
“They took things away offensively and we countered that with big games and key shots by Jordan and Reg,” Coach Larson said.
The hot shooting continued as Camera hit another from distance to spark a 10-2 Academy of Art run finished off by a Rogers long ball. Now up by 20 with 8:38 still left to play, the Urban Knights needed to be prepared for one last burst from Pitt State. The Gorillas had Lizzy Jeronimus, the 19th leading scorer in the country, and Roderique work in tandem for a 15-2 comeback which made it only a 10-point lead for ART U with just over a minute to play.
It became a foul strategy for PSU from that point, but the Knights went a perfect 10-of-10 down the stretch to maintain their advantage. The final buzzer sounded and Academy of Art had pulled off its first victory, an 82-73 final, against a ranked opponent since No. 16 Grand Canyon this past February.
ART U moves to 9-2 overall thanks to another balanced team effort led by Camera’s career-high 23 points, the 10th most by an Urban Knight in program history and nine more than her previous high against Nebraska-Kearney. She heated up from beyond the arc in the second half, finishing the game 3-of-9 from distance while adding four steals and three assists.
“[The career-high] felt great,” Camera said. “It did not matter to me the amount of points I had at the end though, it just felt great to get my shot back! I was focused on defense the most and moving the ball and then hitting my shots!”
Camera was supported by a complete team effort with Rogers delivering 20 points (8-of-11 from the foul line), seven rebounds, four steals, and four blocks. Sheng added 11 points with four steals, four rebounds, and three assists while Griggs made it an ART U quartet scoring in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field.
“Everyone played their role…and again turnover margin was key in this win,” Coach Larson said. “I thought we were very unselfish and people did what they needed to do to contribute in whatever way was needed.”
Jeronimus finished with a team-high 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Gorillas who take just their third loss of the season at 6-3. Her eight turnovers, were nearly half the number she had through eight games this season. Roderique added 18 points (a perfect 10-of-10 from the foul line).