FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Despite 25 points from senior forward Shameka Christon, the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback basketball team could not find the winning combination against the second-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols on Thursday night, falling 93-71 at Bud Walton Arena.
The loss drops the Lady Razorbacks to 16-10 overall and 5-8 in SEC play, while the Lady Vols improve to 24-2 and a perfect 13-0 in conference action.
“It’s tough to counter big post players and 70% shooting from three,” Arkansas head coach Susie Gardner said. “We were not getting offensive rebounds.”
After scoring the first points of the game on Christon free throws, the Lady Razorbacks surrendered eight straight points to the Lady Vols thanks to a pair of threes on consecutive trips down the floor. The early Tennessee run forced Arkansas to play from behind the rest of the period. Hindering Arkansas’ chance to cut into the Tennessee lead was its lack of scoring from anyone other than Christon as she poured in the Lady’Backs first 10 points until Shanna Harmon broke the Arkansas scoring drought with a free throw at 11:15.
“I thought we had good open shots in the first half,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. “I think that our three-point shooting really opened up when went inside.”
The Lady Vols used a hot hand all-around from the floor in the opening period as they converted on nearly 52 percent of their shots, but were especially lethal from three-point land as they hit an unprecedented 70%, going 7-10 from beyond the arc. Conversly, Arkansas hit a dismal 22-percent from the floor and an even worse 8% from behind the three-point line. The shooting difference allowed Tennessee to build a 26-point halftime lead, 47-21.
The second half began much the same as the first half ended with Tennessee pouring in buckets. While Arkansas was better from the floor, Tennessee’s effectiveness countered any attempt at an Arkansas comeback early. Midway through the second half, Arkansas did start to make a comeback, cutting what was a 30-point Tennessee lead down to 20 thanks to a deep Christon three-pointer. Tennessee quickly found its form once again and cruised through the final 10 minutes of the game.
“At halftime we talked about the full court press and playing intense,” Gardner said.
One of the key differences in the contest was Arkansas’ struggles on the boards. The Lady Vols size inside the paint helped Tennessee grab 49 rebounds to Arkansas’ 30. Tennessee’s domination of the glass may have led to only 12 second-chance points, but it was quite a bit more than Arkansas could muster as it only tallied two.
Behind Christon, Arkansas’ Harmon and Rochelle Vaughn were the only other Lady Razorback to score double digits with 14 and 10, respectively. The Lady Vols placed five of their eight players in double figures as Tasha Butts led the way with 25.
“I was really pumped up to play,” Christon said following her swansong in Bud Walton Arena. “It’s a tough way to go out. We were frustrated with their scoring in the first half, but we wanted to dig down and play tough.”
The Lady Razorbacks conclude their regular season on Sunday afternoon when they travel to Oxford, Miss., to take on the Ole Miss Lady Rebels in a key conference matchup that will help determine the seedings for the SEC Tournament.