FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas needed a defense-inspired comeback and got it in a 90-87 Southeastern Conference loss over leading Ole Miss in Bud Walton Arena Sunday afternoon.
The victory improves Arkansas to 18-7 overall and 3-5 in league play while the Lady Rebels moved to 18-6 overall and 7-2 in the SEC.
Arkansas went on a 20-2 run over a nine-minute period forcing several Ole Miss turnovers bringing the Lady Razorbacks to a one-point lead, 59-58. The run was a mirror opposite to Ole Miss’ 15-2 first-half run that allowed the Lady Rebels their 14-point half-time lead.
Each team had the chance to close the game in regulation and the first overtime, but Ashley Awkward’s free throws in the final minute made for the final margin. Arkansas had the final possession, but Brittney Vaughn’s three-point attempt went wide with five seconds left and neither team could control the rebound before time expired.
Laura Ervin, Tanisha Smith Smith, Sarah Pfeifer and Leslie Howard were all in double-figures for the game as Arkansas’ defense forced 25 turnovers included 15 in the second frame.
“We hung tough and we took it to them on defense,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “I was pleased that we could fight back after the first half, and the crowd was fantastic. They helped us fight and stay in it.”
Ervin led Arkansas with a career high 22 points, and her 10th double-double of the season with 11 rebounds.
Armentie Price had 30 to lead all scorers, but her day was typical of Arkansas defensive effort. Price scored 24 of her points in the first half, but had only two field goals in the second half.
Vaughn tied the game at 59 at the 2:55 mark and gave Arkansas’ its first lead with her second free shot as the Lady’Backs’ defensive effort continued. Ole Miss, hampered by turnovers, began fouling Arkansas and the Lady’Backs were good at the line hitting nearly 80 percent for the game.
Arkansas clung to a three-point, 64-61 lead with just under a minute to play when Ole Miss skipper Carol Ross burned a timeout with the ball under her own basket.
Awkward hit a big three tying the game off the in bounds play but Arkansas had a lot of clock to work with but a Lady’Back turnover in front of their own bench handed the ball back to the Lady Rebels.
For a game that finished with a record amount of points by Arkansas against Ole Miss, and the Lady Rebels within two points of their all-time mark in the series, the contest opened slow and sluggish as defense ruled early.
The first basket of the game came at 18:03 when Pfeifer hit from just inside the three-point line breaking open the defensive stranglehold both teams began the game with. Arkansas and Ole Miss began exchanging baskets but the Lady Razorbacks were plagued by some early turnovers allowing the Lady Rebels a 12-8 lead at the first media timeout.
Ole Miss’ quickness and nearly 60 percent shooting from the field allowed the Lady Rebels to pull away at the mid-point of the first period taking a 22-10 lead, they would never surrender.
The Lady Rebels lead by as many as 16 in the half behind a 20-point performance by Price gave Ole Miss a 41-27 halftime lead. Ervin led Arkansas with 10 first-half points.
Arkansas continues SEC action Thursday, Feb. 8, hosting South Carolina in a 6:00 p.m. start. For more information and tickets please call the Lady Razorback Ticket Office at 57-LBACK.