HONOLULU – Arkansas senior Dominique Washington led four Lady Razorbacks in double digits but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the second-ranked North Carolina as the Tar Heels defeated the University of Arkansas, 94-69, to win the 28th annual Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic.
Arkansas, 7-1, took its first loss of the season, but gave the undefeated Tar Heels (6-0) their toughest game of the early season.
“The score won’t look very good in the paper, but I’m very proud of the effort by our team,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said.
In an uptempo game, the two teams exchanged 54 turnovers, with the difference becoming the ability to convert the mistakes. For the game, UNC shot 57% from the field while Arkansas hit only 39%.
“We have to score better in certain situations,” Gardner said. “Still, we’re 7-1 with a young team.”
Washington scored 16 to lead Arkansas, followed by Lauren Ervin with 15, Donica Cosby with 11 and Brittney Vaughn with 11. Vaughn and Ervin each had eight rebounds. With nine assists, Vaughn came close to a triple-double in the game.
“She played three exceptional games, and four days ago she had bone showing out of her finger,” Gardner said of Ervin.
Arkansas kept close to UNC for most of the game, but finally ran out of gas with nine minutes left. The Lady’Backs couldn’t answer the final UNC run which pulled the Tar Heels out to a 20-point spread in the final five minutes.
The teams exchanged leads for the opening six minutes before UNC launched a 11-0 run to take a 26-16 lead. Carolina exploited four Arkansas turnovers to build its first double digit lead, which was extended to 16 behind back-to-back layups by Erlana Larkins.
Leading 37-21 with seven minutes left in the first half, it appeared UNC would blow Arkansas out of the Stan Sheriff Center. Instead, Arkansas tightened up its defense to force six turnovers from Carolina.
The offense responded with a 14-0 run fueled by back-to-back three-pointers from Washington and three straight layups from Ervin to tie the game at 39-39 with 2:57 in the half.
Arkansas stalled offensively the rest of the half, but neither team scored for over two minutes as the game devolved into a physical defensive battle.
Carolina took a seven-point advantage to halftime, and with an increasingly physical second half start pushed back out to a 17-point advantage, 60-43, with 15:17 left.
Once again, Arkansas responded with 9-2 run led by points and assists from Vaughn to cut the UNC lead to single digits, 60-51.
Larkins took the game in her hands to regain control for UNC converted the numerous turnovers by both teams at a higher rate than Arkansas.
Larkins led UNC with 17 points and 12 rebounds as six Tar Heels in double digits. Larkins was named the tournament MVP while Cosby was named to the all-tournament team.