WICHITA – Senior Shameka Christon led four Lady Razorbacks in double digits as the University of Arkansas opened the Susie Gardner era with a victory over Wichita State, 81-72, in women’s college basketball.
The national player of the year candidate had a double-double to open her final year at Arkansas with 28 points and 11 rebounds. It was the most Christon had scored against a non-conference opponent since early last season with 28 against Louisiana-Lafayette, and was her best opening game of her career.
Christon’s 10-of-20 from the field ensured her new head coach Gardner a win in her first game at Arkansas.
“It was really great to give that to her,” Christon said.
Gardner was glad to put another first behind her.
“I’m glad it’s over, because I’m getting a little tired of firsts” she joked with the media after the game. “Of course, now we go home for our first home game Monday.”
Arkansas faces Rice on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. at Walton Arena, but tonight it was the debut of Charles Koch Arena at Wichita State that was ruined by a tenacious Arkansas offense.
The Lady’Backs shot 49.1% from the field and pulled down 48 rebounds in the victory. The one statistic holding Arkansas back was turnovers, 24 to 16 for WSU.
“Our post players combined to give us a good job, but our guards still have a way to go,” Gardner said. “We knew that coming into the year, and I’ve got to have some patience there.”
Arkansas, 1-0, pushed its lead to 10-points three times in the second half, only to watch Wichita State, 0-1, rally.
“There was a lot of good, but there was a lot we need to get better on,” Christon said. “It was a good start, but we’re not satisfied. As a team, we’ve got a long way to go.”
A four-point outburst from Carlesa Dennis tied the game at 42-42 with 16:42 left to play. Arkansas managed to keep the lead away from WSU with a mix of inside shots from Christon and outside buckets from Rochelle Vaughn and April Seggebruch. Back-to-back treys from Seggebruch gave Arkansas a 10-point lead, 67-57, with 6:31 to play.
“That was huge when she hit those two three-pointers,” Gardner said.
The Lady’Back offense hit 50% in the first half and the defense held WSU in check with only 33%, but turnovers made the game interesting as Arkansas had 13 in the opening period.
Arkansas opened the game red hot with an 8-0 run while forcing six straight field goal misses. The Shockers responded with a 10-2 run to tie the game, and the teams traded momentum and leads for the next 10 minutes.
Christon kept the pressure on Wichita the entire half, but when Vaden hit stride with 5-of-5 from the field Arkansas pulled out to six-point lead, 29-23.
The Lady’Back senior almost had a double-double in the first half, pulling down eight rebounds to go with 11 points in only 14 minutes.
Wichita rallied at the close of the first half to within four, but a fast-break finishing layup from Katrina Nesby kept Arkansas up at intermission, 38-33.
For the game, Nesby finished with 10 points before fouling out with only 18 minutes as the starter. Vaden closed with 12 off the bench and a perfect 5-of-5 from the field. Seggebruch’s 10 points rounded out the double digit scorers.
Behind Christon’s 11 rebounds, Arkansas had a career-high nine rebounds from Vaughn and seven from Vaden.
Dennis led Wichita State with 18 points followed by Angela Buckner with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Tissharria Huggins and Kelsy Richardson had 12 points each.