LOS ANGELES – A career high game by sophomore point guard Rochelle Vaughn led the University of Arkansas to a gritty opening round victory over Oregon State, 58-50, at the Furama Thanksgiving Classic hosted by Loyola Marymount University.
Arkansas (3-0) faces the winner of Providence and the host Lions of LMU at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Vaughn’s 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists allowed the Lady Razorbacks to push back a physical Oregon State (2-2). Vaughn’s previous best was 11 points against #1 Duke as a freshman.
Senior Shameka Christon picked up her third straight 20-point game and the eighth double-double of her career with 22 points and 11 rebounds. The 6-1 forward also has a season best four blocked shots and three steals.
Arkansas dominated the boards in the first half and held a 12-point lead despite losing one of its starters, Sarah Pfeifer, just five minutes into the contest.
“That might have been the best half of basketball we’ve played this year,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “We had great enthusiasm, we outrebounded them. We took it to them in the first half, and we hung on in the second.”
The Beavers rallied to within three late in the game, but Vaughn drained a three-pointer with just under a minute to play to keep OSU at bay.
“KP (freshman Kristin Peoples) did all that,” Vaughn demurred. “She drew the defense in and found me wide open. She made that shot easy.”
Along with her seven assists, Vaughn had only two turnvoers as the Lady’Backs committed only 15 as a team.
“I didn’t get a sense that Ro(chelle) was scoring that many points, but I did get the sense that she was doing a great job running the team,” Gardner said.
Three players were injured in the game, two for the Lady’Backs and one for the Beavers. The Lady’Backs’ Pfeifer dislocated her left shoulder five minutes into the game, while the Beavers’ Anita Rivera injured her left knee midway through the second half. Both players left the game after their injuries. Early in the second half, Arkansas’ April Seggebruch tumbled under three OSU players for a loose ball and bruised her left arm. Seggebruch was able to return to the contest.
Arkansas was on a run at the time of Pfeifer’s injury, but the team worked to keep its momentum going.
“Injuries happen, and it’s a part of the game,” Christon said. “You have your teammate in your prayers, but you know that Sarah wants us to win the game.”
Christon and Vaughn powered Arkansas to a 10-2 lead to open the game, and after a brief Beaver rally led by five unanswered points from Ebony Young brought OSU back to within six, 24-18, with 6:34 in the first half.
Arkansas clamped down on the Beavers, holding OSU scoreless for the next five minutes to build an 11-point, 29-18, lead. After Mandy Rivera broke the scoring drought, Vaughn’s three-pointer at the buzzer sent Arkansas into the locker room with a 12-point, 32-20, lead.
Opening up the second half strong, it appeared Arkansas might pull away. Oregon State’s Casey Bunn had different plans. Scoreless in the first half, Bunn scored 10 points in an 18-5 run to pull within three, 41-38, with 13:50 to play.
Back-to-back jumpers from Vaughn gave Arkansas back part of its lead, 48-40, with eight left to play, only to watch the Beavers pull back within three, 53-50, as Bunn forced Christon’s fourth personal foul.
Vaughn ended the comeback with a 20-footer from the deep right corner with 57 seconds left to make the score 56-50.
Christon alternated buckets with Vaughn most of the game, and the pair accounted for over two-thirds of Arkansas’ total output.
“Sometimes that’s the way it has to be,” Christon said. “Each of us has to be ready when the time comes that the team might need one of us to step up. I’ll take that responsibility.”
Arkansas’ smothering defense held OSU to only 24% from the field and 30.6% for the game, primarily by limiting the touches and shots of the Beavers’ top three scorers, Holley Chapman, Brina Chaney and Estavan. The trio averaged 31 points a game coming into the contest, but managed only 15 points.
“Our defense did a great job, in particular our post players,” Gardner said. “They kept Chaney from even getting to shoot, she only had five shots. As we prepare for each team, we are really breaking down the opponents defensively.”
Bunn came off the bench as OSU’s only double digit scorer with 15 points.