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Historic win for Arkansas at Florida

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Historic win for Arkansas at Florida

     GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Senior Shameka Christon scored 22 of her game-high 25 points in the second half as the University of Arkansas made history with its first-ever victory at the University of Florida, 82-68, at the O’Connell Center Sunday afternoon.
     The win ups Arkansas’ record to 16-9 overall and 5-7 in Southeastern Conference play heading into the final week of the season. The loss was Florida’s fourth straight and drops the Gators wot 16-9 overall and 6-6 in the SEC.
     Trailing by as many as 15 in the first half, Arkansas used a 54-33 second half to snap it’s six-game losing streak at Florida.
     “Obviously, the first half was a little different from the second half,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “In January, we lose this game, but now we’ve grown and we’ve learned what it takes to win these kind of games.”
     Missing nine shots in the first half, Christon was 6-of-8 in the second half and sank 12-of-16 at the line.
     “We had great shots in the first half,” Christon joked. “Maybe we just wanted to build Florida a new arena.”
     Arkansas comeback started that the close of the first half as Vaughn took a steal the length of the court for a buzzer-beating three-pointer to send the teams to halftime, 35-28.
     “That shot was huge,” Gardner said. “Rochelle Vaughn sends us into the locker room with confidence. We told them to keep shooting the shots, and they would go our way.”
     Vaughn and fellow guard Kristin Peoples finished the game with 18 points each.
     “It was great because we didn’t give up on the play, and we go into the locker room knowing that our shots would fall in the second half,” Peoples said.
     Another Vaughn trey and a pair of Moore jumpers closed Arkansas with two to set the table for Christon. The senior’s first field goal of the game tied the contest at 39-39, and she followed it with six more points to push Arkansas to a 45-41 lead at 13:54.
     Hayden responded with six straight for Florida, but Peoples and Adrienne Bush matched the Gator all-American.
     Christon’s first three-pointer of the game put Arkansas up by 10, 57-47, with 10 minutes to play. Arkansas’ defense clamped down on the Gators, holding Florida scoreless for the next three and a half minutes. Meanwhile, Christon hit two more buckets and Arkansas led 61-47 at 8:05.
     “Once she gets her confidence and gets going in a game, she’s hard to stop,” Gardner said of Christon.
     “A lot of times, I’ve had a slow start, but as long as I don’t rush the shots, good things will eventually happen,” Christon said.
     The Gators went to a full-court press in the final seven minutes, but their aggressive defense only led to an Arkansas school record for free throw attempts and makes. The Lady’Backs finished with 38-of-54, breaking the 36-of-47 against Montana during the 1987 NWIT.
     Defense dominated the opening minutes of the game as Arkansas missed its first 10 shots before a breakaway layup by Vaughn broke drought.
     Arkansas pushed the ball up the floor on the Gators, and it allowed the Lady’Backs to make up for a cold hand. Tying the game at 10-10, it looked like Arkansas would run Florida down until the Gators launched a 10-2 run for a 20-12 lead with 10 minutes to play.
     April Seggebruch free throws cut into the Florida lead, 22-16, but a three-point play by Hayden led another 10-0 run to 32-16.
     The Lady’Backs went over nine minutes between field goals at the end of the first half, breaking the school record for the worst shooting percentage in a SEC regular season game. In the 5-of-37, both Christon (0-of-9) and Moore (0-of-5) were unable to hit from the field, and the team’s top scorer in the first half, Vaughn, shot only 3-of-10.
     Free throws kept Arkansas afloat as the Lady’Backs hit 16-of-23 for the half.
     For the game, Hayden led Florida with 16 points and 11 rebounds followed by 12 from Danielle Santos.
     Arkansas returns to Fayetteville for Senior Night on Thursday, Feb. 26, to face third-ranked Tennessee at 7 p.m. Tickets for the game can be purchased in advance through the Lady Razorbacks’ on-line ticketing system at ladybacks.com or by telephone through the Lady Razorback Ticket Office.



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