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Golden Panthers rally past Arkansas in final minutes

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Golden Panthers rally past Arkansas in final minutes

MIAMI – All-tournament selection Marquita Adley’s crucial free throws and rebound in the final minutes guided Florida International victory over the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks, 58-54, in the championship game of the FIU Fun and Sun Classic at Pharmed Arena. Arkansas, 8-5, led by 17 midway through the second half, but a furious comeback by the host Golden Panthers, 7-4, saw FIU outscore the Lady’Backs 24-3 in the final minutes of the game. “We’ve got to understand on the road that we’ve got to rally and play through adversity,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “We had some huge mistakes at key times.” Kristin Moore led Arkansas with 12 points and seven rebounds and was named all-tournament. Rochelle Vaughn was also named all-tournament, scoring 11 points. Adley led FIU with 12 points and 10 rebounds while tournament MVP Lasma Jekabsone had 8 points and 13 rebounds. Arkansas shot only 30% from the field in the second half, scoring only 22 points and a total of three in the final 9:41. “We had the lead at half and we talked about how FIU would not give up, and how they came back from down 15 last night,” Gardner said. “Give them credit, they never game up.” Leading by 12, 32-20, at halftime, Arkansas gave up its first three-point goal in five halves of basketball to open the second half. LaQuetta Ferguson’s 20-footer allowed FIU to cut the lead to single digits for the first time since the early first half. Seniors Vaughn and Moore responded with back-to-back buckets to put the Lady’Backs up by 15, 38-23, with 17:15 to play. Arkansas’ offense rolled on to a 51-34 lead with a jumper from Whitney Jones with 9:41 in the game. It proved to be the Lady’Backs last field goal for the next eight minutes. The Golden Panthers struggled until the closing six minutes of the game when a 15-0 run trimmed the Arkansas lead to three, 51-49. Iva Ciglar’s three-pointer cut the game to two, and could have tied the game after a steal but missed an breakaway layup. Dominique Washington hit one of two at the line with exactly three minutes left to snap the FIU run, but Ferguson drew Moore’s fifth foul with 2:36 to set the stage for the final minute. Ferguson hit one of two, but Adley stuck back the miss to tie the game at 52-52. Adley came back on the next possession to hit her first two free throws of the game to give FIU the lead, 54-52, with 1:45 left. Jones answered for Arkansas to tie the game, 54-54, but Adley returned the bucket to keep FIU ahead. The Lady’Backs could not answer, and Adley pulled down the missed shot with less than a minute to play. The two halves could not have been more different as Arkansas dominated FIU in the opening 20 minutes. A day after setting the school record for least points scored by two teams, Arkansas opened the game red-hot from the field to build an early lead. Creatively entering the ball to post players Moore and Kristina Andjelkovic, Arkansas scored 19 of its 32 first half points in the lane against the much taller Golden Panthers. Meanwhile, Arkansas continued the defensive pressure that gave up only 33 points to opening round opponent Coppin State. After allowing FIU to shoot 67% in the first minutes, Arkansas’ defense slowed the Golden Panthers to a field goal every three minutes midway through the half. By the end of the first half, FIU was completely unable to score on Arkansas from the field. A layup by Eva Makela at 7:14 was the last field goal of the half by FIU. A three-point play by Rochelle Vaughn with 3:25 left in the half gave Arkansas its largest lead of the first half with 13 points, 29-16. For the half, Arkansas shot 45% from the field, limiting FIU to only 33% and forcing 14 early turnovers which converted into half of the Lady’Backs points in the opening period. Makela finished the game as the only other player in double digits with 10 for FIU. Arkansas returns to Fayetteville to prepare for the SEC opener at Starkville, Miss., to face the Miss State Bulldogs on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 7 p.m.



Sports Category : Basketball (W)