FAYETTEVILLE –A two possession game midway through the second half, Keira Peak hit a three-pointer from the corner that sparked a 16-4 Razorback run down the stretch, as the University of Arkansas women's basketball team (4-0) claimed a 66-51 win over Middle Tennessee State (1-2) inside Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday.
Scoring 11 of her 20 points in the second half alone, Peak led the charge for the Razorbacks, but was accompanied by freshman Jessica Jackson who also recorded 11 points over the final frame and tied for the game’s leading scorer with a career-high 22 points.
“I thought we didn’t panic,” head coach Tom Collen said. “We had a 10-point lead and we let it slip, but then we ran it back up. It’s the first time we’ve been in that type of a game and I think for our veterans to step up and some of our freshmen to show poise the way they did in a tight game against a good team, I think we’ve got some positives to take away.”
With Peak and Jackson filling up the scoring column, Calli Berna spread her game out across the stat sheet, as the junior point guard finished the night with eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists and seven steals.
“This team’s got to build an identity,” Collen said. “Every team that you have is a new team every year. This team still needs to figure out who they are and blend these veteran players in with the freshmen. I think they’re striving hard to be able to do that.”
A contested game from the opening tip, Kelsey Brooks checked in at the 16:25 mark of the first half and made an impact from off the bench with the Razorbacks trailing 10-6. The freshman immediately helped force MTSU into back-to-back turnovers, as UA went on a 7-2 run and took a 13-12 lead. Jhasmin Bowen led all scorers with five points over the stretch.
MTSU came back with a 7-3 run to regain a 24-23 lead with just over five minutes to play in the first half. Ebony Rowe carried the Raiders with 15 points and seven rebounds over the first half of play.
The leadership of Arkansas responded, as Peak and Berna spotted big first halves of their own. Peak finished with nine points and two rebounds, while Berna’s presence was felt all over the court with her five points, three assists, four rebounds and two steals. UA closed the first half on a 15-8 run to take a 36-31 lead into the half.
Emerging from the locker room with just 25 percent shooting from the floor, the Razorbacks allowed the Blue Raiders to trim the lead back to a one-possession game at 41-39 with 12:49 to play.
The tandem of Berna and Peak would come up with the turning point of the game, as Berna found Peak in the corner for a 3-pointer that pushed UA’s lead to 48-43 with less than nine minutes to play. Momentum altered, the shot led to a 16-4 UA run and gave the Razorbacks a 61-47 lead with just over two minutes to play.
The Razorback defense went to work to preserve the win, locking down the Raiders and holding the group without a basket for over six minutes before a MTSU converted a layup with 1:16 remaining.
Arkansas remains home and will play its second of three non-conference games this week by hosting Missouri State inside Bud Walton Arena on Nov. 22. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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