FAYETTEVILLE – Sophomore forward Danielle Allen struck for a career high 20 points to lead the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback basketball team to an opening night 74-49 victory against the Alabama State Lady Hornets at Bud Walton Arena on Friday night.
The win improves the Lady Razorbacks to 1-0 on the season while Alabama State falls to 0-1.
Ahead by four at the break, Arkansas’ pressure defense and high intensity game wore down its opponent as it quickly built a comfortable cushion in the second. Trading buckets to open the half, Arkansas then went on an 8-0 run over the next three minutes to take a 10-point lead.
Defense keyed the victory as the Lady’Backs broke a 14-year old record by forcing 45 turnovers from the three-time defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champions. Arkansas scored 43 points off the record turnover effort, and came within a steal of breaking the Bud Walton Arena record.
“They played really aggressive and made plays when they needed,” Alabama State head coach Freda Freeman-Jackson. “Its hard to win with that many turnovers. If we could have made some of their turnovers into offense we could have stayed with them. That’s what happens with a young ball club. We just didn’t do what we needed to finish the game out.”
The Arkansas school record for a single contest breaking the mark of the 1990-91 Lady Razorback squad that forced 43 on Murray State in early December of 1990.
Scoring just 34 points in the opening half, Arkansas came back in the second with 40 and improved its shooting percentage from 37 to 48 percent. Allen was the star claiming 12 of her 20 in the second half in just 12 minutes of action.
“Allen uses her left hand very well,” Arkansas head coach Susie Gardner said. “D (anielle) played an exceptional game. I was proud of the way she came out and hustled.”
Not only did the 6-1 sophomore quadruple her freshman career high of five, her 20 points for the evening was 2/3rds of her total for her entire freshman season.
Arkansas got off to a fast start by claiming the game’s first four points on high percentage shots. Junior Sheree Thompson was the first to score when she took the opening tip in for a layup. Following the bucket, Allen picked off an errent Alabama State pass and passed to Thompson who nailed her second bucket in as many opportunities. Despite the quick start, Arkansas was unable to put the Lady Hornets away as they shot a surprising 63% though the first 10 minutes of action to stay with four points throughout the first 10 minutes.
As the half continued both squads shooting cooled off, but it was the Alabama State turnovers that allowed Arkansas to keep the lead. The Lady Hornets commited 24 giveaways over the opening 20 minutes which led directly to 15 Arkansas points. The plus-nine margin that Arkansas enjoyed in points off turnovers was outweighed by its abismal shooting from the charity stripe as it hit just eight of 21 attempts.
A four-and-a-half-minute dryspell for the Lady Razorbacks from the floor allowed Alabama State to erase its largest deficit of five and take its first lead of the contest at 25-24 on a Nicole Gardiner layup with 4:29 left in the half. The Lady Hornets would score seven consecutive points during the stretch but were unable to keep the pressure on as Arkansas finished strong and led 34-30 at the break.
“They had 24 (turnovers) in the first half and we didn’t convert.” Gardner said. “They got out and ran with us. I was pleased that we could convert in the second half. Our free throw shooting in the first half was obviously terrible, but came back in the second and did better.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action on Sunday afternoon when they take on Centenary at Bud Walton Arena beginng at 2:00 p.m. For more information about Lady Razorback basketball or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.