COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Five University of Arkansas seniors ended their collegiate careers Monday night leading the Razorback women’s basketball team to a dramatic 61-59 loss against defending national champion Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Seniors C'eira Ricketts, Ashley Daniels, Lyndsay Harris, Julie Inman and Jamesha Townsend paced the Razorbacks to a 24-9 season but Arkansas couldn’t overcome the offense of the Aggies.
Junior Quistelle Williams paced the Razorbacks with 14 points and eight boards, leading the team for the second consecutive game. Harris added 13 points and Ricketts and junior Sarah Watkins had 10 points each in the loss.
"We didn't quite get the look we wanted at the end of the game but I couldn't be more pleased with the effort of this team all year," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "This has been one of the most enjoyable senior classes I have ever coached. They took a chance on me four years ago and it has been great coaching them."
The game started as expected with each team feeling out the other and looking for an opening. The Razorback offense shot just 27 percent through the opening nine minutes and Texas A&M took the early lead in front of a loud home crowd.
Collen platooned players in and out of the lineup trying to slow up the Aggies and while Arkansas’ defense was solid, the offense struggled to get on pace. The Aggies also controlled the boards early, out-rebounding Arkansas 13-5 through the first 10 minutes of play.
Arkansas caught fire behind the play of Williams and Dominique Robinson who played small ball, forcing turnovers and hitting the short jumpers.
Robinson drove the lane, made the shot and was fouled tying the game at 13 at the 8:13 mark of the first half.
Williams hit a short jumper and gave Arkansas the lead. The teams traded baskets with the game tied at 17 with 5:51 to go in the first frame.
The Aggies responded out of the break with a 6-1 run stretching the lead to 23-18, and forcing a Razorback timeout.
Ricketts drove and scored helping Arkansas close the gap to seven, 27-20, at the half.
Texas A&M continued to score well out of the half and Arkansas struggled against the size inside as the rebounding advantage belonged firmly to the Aggies.
Arkansas got small sparks from the offense and cut the lead to single digits twice late in the game, trailing by just five with under five minutes to play.
The offense continued to chip away getting eight late points from Ricketts and a couple of free throws from Watkins to inch closer. Harris then hit a dagger with a long three bringing Arkansas within a basket, 55-53, with exactly three minutes on the clock.
The Razorbacks seemed sparked by the frenzied crowd and played as if they were the home team pressing the ball on defense and driving on offense.
Harris had the ball in her hands and drove left hitting a layup with 1:21 to giving Arkansas its first lead in the second half.
The teams traded misses and timeouts before Aggie Sydney Carter drove and was fouled. She hit both bonus shots giving Texas A&M the 60-59 advantage with 23.5 seconds left to play.
Arkansas played for the last shot but a missed shot followed by an Arkansas foul on the rebound attempt put the Aggies back on the line with 1.2 seconds left.
Texas A&M hit one of two but Arkansas couldn’t come up with the last second heroics falling by two.