HONOLULU – Freshman Donica Cosby’s 14 points led five players in double digits as the University of Arkansas defeated Denver, 84-58, in the opening round of the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawai’i.
The Lady Razorbacks (6-0) face the winner of Texas Tech and the host Wahine on Saturday at either 3:10 or 5:20 p.m. CST. Denver (1-1) faces the loser of the TT-UH game.
“I felt like today we had several players step up in a true team effort,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “There wasn’t one player that stood out, they all did. Everyone did their part, and so far, this was our best game of the year.”
Arkansas’ leading scorer and rebounder for the season, junior transfer Lauren Ervin, suffered a compound dislocation of her left pinky finger at practice on Thanksgiving day.
After stitches and creative padding and tape, the 6-3 junior post was able to start the game against Denver. Early on, she struggled to handle the ball, but became confident in her off-hand as the game went on.
“She played through for us and gave us a great effort,” Gardner said.
While Ervin adjusted, senior Sarah Pfeifer and freshman Tanisha Smith took up the slack in the first half on the inside and Arkansas regained its three-point shooting, hitting three of its first four treys.
“Having Sarah available to come off the bench is a huge boost for our team,” Gardner said. “She is a calming effect when she comes in the game. Tanisha still hasn’t had a Tanisha Smith game yet, but this was closer to those kind of games she will give us.”
The game-breaker was the bench that provided four of the five players in double digits for the Lady Razorbacks.
“Everyone contributed, it was a solid team effort,” Gardner said.
Meanwhile, Denver proved two dimensional with only Sara Benhan and Tyesha Lowery providing consistent scoring.
In the second half, Arkansas used that three-point power to pull away after a last run by the Pioneers. Sara Benham went on a 12-2 run to bring Denver within seven, 49-42, but the Lady’Back guards picked up the pace.
Four second-half three-pointers from Cosby were particularly damaging. The third of her trio gave Arkansas a 21-point, 69-48, with 7:14 left in the game.
Tyesha Lowery gave Denver the early lead, but a 22-5 run driven by bench scoring from Smith and Pfeifer put Arkansas ahead, 27-11, with 7:07 left in the first half. Pfeifer closed the first half with 10 points, including a breakaway layup near the close of the period to prevent the Pioners from cutting the lead under double digits.
Arkansas went to the locker room at half leading 35-23.
Behind Cosby, Arkansas had 12 each from Pfeifer, Smith and Ervin. Whitney Jones added 11 to round out the double digit scorers.
In spite of her injury, Ervin led all rebounders with nine boards in just 20 minutes played.
After shooting only 23.3% from the three-point line in the first five games, Arkansas hit 47.4% for the game against Denver, sinking 9-of-19.