FAYETTEVILLE – Despite a Bud Walton Arena record for blocked shots, the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback basketball team could not outlast a tenacious South Carolina Gamecock squad, falling to their Southeastern Conference rival, 74-61.
The loss drops the Lady Razorbacks to 18-8 on the year and 3-7 in SEC play while South Carolina improves to 14-11 overall and 4-6 in league action.
“We started out the game strong, and when we had the lead we felt like we had it going,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “We’re just not holding the leads, and it’s very frustrating.”
The Lady’Backs had five players in double digits, but could not overcome the second-half heroics of Lauren simms and Lakesha Tolliver. The pair came off the bench for 23 and 19 respectively.
Arkansas blocked 11 shots in the contest to set the arena record by one, breaking the mark of its 2006 game against McNeese State and the 2004 contest against Kentucky. Lauren Ervin led the block party for the Lady Razorbacks with five stuffs.
The Lady Razorbacks got off to a solid start, jumping out to a 6-0 lead, then taking the advantage to as many as seven in the opening minutes. Arkansas would maintain that edge through the 15 minute mark before a South Carolina run brought the Gamecocks back to within three. South Carolina would come within one at the 11-minute mark, but a countering effort by Arkansas gave the Lady Razorbacks an eight point advantage.
Unable to maintain its cushion, Arkansas hit a dry spell from the floor that South Carolina took advantage of; going on a 12-4 run that tied the game at 33 with 3:56 to play in the half. The Gamecocks would take their first lead of the contest moments later on a Lauren Sims jumper making it a 35-33 game. The two teams would trade baskets until the halftime buzzer knotting the game at 36 at the break.
Once again the Lady Razorbacks would start the half off with a spark, but this time South Carolina was ready and never allowed the Lady’Backs to gain more than a five-point lead in the early going. A ferocious Arkansas attack however, did get the Lady Razorbacks back to their game-high eight-point lead which could have been more had they not missed three free throws during the run.
Like a good title fight in boxing, South Carolina took each of Arkansas’ best punches and kept coming back. The Gamecocks, sensing that the game was getting away, fought their way back to within four before another Lady Razorback run capped by a Dominque Washington three-pointer gave Arkansas its biggest lead, 10, with 10 minutes to play.
The Gamecocks would come back for a fifth time in the last quarter of the contest, slowly working their way back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead for good after a 20-4 run. From there, Arkansas was forced to foul against USC and the Gamecocks didn’t give the Lady’Backs a chance to rally.
Five Lady Razorbacks scored in double figures with Brittney Vaughn, Sarah Pfeifer and Ervin each netting 12. Tanisha Smith scored 11 and Donica Cosby drained 10. South Carolina was led by Lauren Simms who scored a game high 23. Lakesha Tollever and Shannel Harris scored 19 and 10, respectively. On the boards, South Carolina was dominating, grabbing 52 rebounds to just 35 for the Lady Razorbacks.
The Lady Razorbacks are back at home next Thursday night when they take on seventh-ranked LSU at Bud Walton Arena.