FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Junior Charity Ford came off the bench to lead all scorers with 17 points, but her final three points were the most important in Arkansas’ 70-59 win over the Lady Rebels of Ole Miss.
Arkansas, 15-11, won its third straight Southeastern Conference game of the year, moving to 4-7 in league play. The win also moved Arkansas into a tie for seventh place in the league with Ole Miss, who is also 15-11 and 4-7.
Ford’s shot-clock beating three-pointer snapped a 6:16 drought without a field goal, making the score 61-53, with 3:50 left.
“That was the play that cost us the game,” UM head coach Renee Ladner said. “Arkansas did a great job today, but especially when we made a mistake. They took advantage.”
The play was drawn up in a time out by assistant coach Greg Collins.
“Greg does our out-of-bounds plays, and when I saw that we only had four seconds on the shot clock, I pulled him right into the huddle,” Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. “He drew it up right there.”
The play took advantage of Ole Miss’ desire to cover both Ford and freshman guard Ceira Ricketts. Ricketts was hot early in the game, and finished as Arkansas’ only other player in double digits with 13 points.
“We told our players to make sure they had 22 (Ricketts) and 32 (Ford) covered,” Ladner said. “When they switched the inbounder, my player turned to me and wanted to know if she was suppose to stay with her (Ford).”
“We felt like we could get one pass on the inbound,” Collen said.
The play came in to Ricketts from Ford, who passed it back to an open Ford in the deep right corner.
“Coach Greg told me in the time out to make it,” Ford said. “I didn’t see it and I don’t know how far back from the line I was, but I felt like it was good.”
The shot started a 5-0 burst to put Arkansas back into double digits, 63-53. It led to a 13-4 close to the game in a game that Arkansas never trailed.
“Thank God for Charity Ford,” Collen said. “That’s the third time in a row she’s stuck a big shot. She was the player of the game.”
Ford’s shot reversed a poor shooting start for the Razorbacks in the second half that opened the door for Ole Miss. Ole Miss opened up 57% from the field while Arkansas struggled to hit just 33%.
Goff’s wide-open three-pointer cut the lead to 11, 49-38, to set the stage for a defensive stand by the Lady Rebels that held Arkansas without a field goal for almost four and a half minutes.
Fortunately for the Razorbacks, Ole Miss could not take advantage of the first Arkansas dry spell which ended with a stick-back rebound from McCray at 10:11 left to lead 56-42.
Ole Miss wasn’t done as a pair of Arkansas turnovers led to back-to-back layups for Melson and a 10-point deficit, 56-46, at 8:09. A pair of McCray free throws were followed by a three-pointer by Elizabeth Robertson to make it an eight-point game.
The Lady Rebels assembled an 11-2 run off back-to-back layups, a three-pointer from Elizabeth Robertson and free throws to pull within five, 58-53.
Arkansas went cold from the McCray bucket, managing a single free throw during the Ole Miss rally, and lost the services of Lyndsay Harris. The freshman three-point shooter fouled out with seven points with 5:42 to play.
“It was too little, too late,” Latner said. “Our confidence is a little shaken.”
For the second straight game, Arkansas ran an SEC opponent from the tipoff, leading Ole Miss, 12-3, but unlike earlier in the week, the Razorbacks kept the pressure on the Lady Rebels.
Shooting a season-high 59.3% from the field for the first half, Arkansas poured on the offense with 12 points off the bench from Ford and nine from Ricketts.
The Lady Rebels never led in the first half, and trimmed the Arkansas lead to five, 29-24, on a pair of free throws by Goff.
Ricketts took over the game in the final seven minutes of the half, scoring five of an 11-0 run that saw Arkansas lead by as many as 17 before heading to the locker room ahead by 16, 43-27. It was the largest halftime lead for Arkansas against a SEC opponent this season.
“We’ve been getting off to a slow start, but today we hit them hard and fast,” Ricketts said.
Arkansas held Ole Miss to only 27.6% in the first half, and scoreless for over five minutes at the end of the period.
Ole Miss was led by Kayla Melson off the bench with 15 points, followed by 13 each from Thomas and Goff.
The Razorbacks return to the road next Thursday to face Florida in Gainesville at 6 p.m. central. Arkansas closes home portion of the regular season next Sunday with Senior Day against Alabama at 2 p.m.