TUSCALOOSA – Senior Shameka Christon tied her season high with 31 points and a career high seven three-pointers but the University of Alabama prevailed, 68-65, over the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks in Southeastern Conference women’s basketball at Coleman Coliseum.
Arkansas (14-8, 3-7) could not overcome Alabama’s tremendous rebounding advantage despite a heroic effort from the field by its leading scorer.
“You’ve got to give Alabama a lot of credit for taking it to us on the glass,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “That comes down to hustle. It got close late, but the game was decided in the first half.”
Bama (12-12, 4-7) outrebounded Arkansas 52-28 for the game, including 26 offensive rebounds.
“Letting them have 18 offensive rebounds in the first half to our two, that was the difference,” Christon said. “They killed us on rebounds.”
Early foul trouble limited Christon in the first half to only 11 points and 11 minutes as Alabama led by as many as 12 before going to halftime up by only seven, 34-27.
With Christon on the court to open the second half, Arkansas jumped on Alabama with a 14-6 run to take its first lead of the game, 41-40, with 14:48 to play.
The teams exchanged free throws over the next five minutes as defense held sway over the game until Christon took over the game with back-to-back three-point plays to give Arkansas a 48-43 lead.
“I was feeling it, and I want to help the team as much as possible,” Christon said. “After losing our last game, we certainly didn’t want to lose this one.”
Bevins and Merriweather responded to tie the game at 48-48 before Christon and Bivins went on a shooting dual. The two teams exchanged the lead five times before Manisha Redus’ layup at 3:13 gave Alabama the lead for good, 59-58.
“She (Shameka) kept us in the game,” Gardner said. “She shot exceptionally well, and she seemed like the only offensive threat showing any confidence for us throughout the game.”
Arkansas had chances in the final minute as Bama missed free throws and turned the ball over to the Lady’Backs. Kristin Peoples cut the margin to only two off a layup with six seconds to play. When Kate Mastin missed the front end of two free throws with four seconds on the clock, Arkansas hoped to go the length of the court and force overtime. The game wasn’t secure for Bama until Mastin stole the ensuing half-court inbounds pass by April Seggebruch with two seconds to play.
Neither team opened with offensive touch as both sides struggled against packed zone defenses. Alabama’s Bevins broke the logjam for the Crimson Tide with three straight three-pointers and a 17-9 lead early.
Christon countered with consecutive treys to slice the lead to two, 17-15, but the weight of Alabama’s rebounding advantage began to be felt.
The Crimson Tide outrebounded Arkansas 30-9 in the first half, and it led Alabama to a 12-point lead, 32-20, before stalling at the end of the period.
A three-pointer from Vaughn and a three-point play from Peoples in the final minute helped bring Arkansas back within single digits at half, 34-27.
Early foul trouble by Christon again caused the Lady’Back offense to sputter. Despite playing only 11 minutes, the senior did cross the 1,800-point mark for her career with her opening jumper of the game and went to halftime with 11 points.
Arkansas got 12 from Moore and 10 from Peoples to round out its scoring.
Bivins led Alabama with 26 points, followed by 13 from Mastin and 10 by Lauren Hill.
The Lady’Backs return home for Kentucky on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. The game is UA faculty and staff night at Bud Walton Arena.