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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Slow starts in both halves Wednesday night gave the University of Arkansas a test in their exhibition contest against Rogers State, but solid play on both sides of the ball from senior Whitney Jones led the home team to a 74-58 victory over the visiting Hillcats.
Jones finished with a game high 20 points in only 20 minutes played to pace the Razorbacks.
“I thought playing this game was good for us,” head coach Tom Collen said. “We obviously needed it, we had the close scrimmage against Oral Roberts where we looked a lot better but we needed this. We needed to get out on the floor and play at game-pace, have the officials blow the whistle, and have girls running in and out, seeing how they respond to everything.”
Plagued by 16 turnovers and eight of 37 shooting in the first half, the Hillcats clawed their way back into the game in the second half, matching the Razorbacks with 45 percent shooting from the field and got as close as four with 11 minutes left in the game before Arkansas pulled away and finally out of reach. The visitors couldn’t overcome their turnover troubles, committing 15 in the second half, which combined with their first half mistakes handed the Hogs 26 of their total points.
Jones’ strong effort was aided by junior Ashley McCray’s 15 points in 15 minutes of play and Ayana Brereton’s 12 points despite fouling out with 5:02 remaining. Brittany Richardson led the team with eight boards during her 24 minutes on the court.
The Hogs started slow in the first half, not sinking a shot in the first two minutes, but early turnovers by the Hillcats opened the door for Jones who carried the team to a 7-0 start with 17:08 left on the clock. Over the next 4:56, the Razorbacks built a 15-3 lead before fouls and turnovers of their own whittled the lead to eight with 10:06 remaining in the half.
“It wasn’t a pretty game, we never really set a tempo like we wanted to, but we worked our way through it,” Collen said. “We’ll look back at this game and we’ll find a lot of things we need to fix and we get 10 days to do that. If we’d rolled out here and won 100-50 and looked like a million bucks, maybe we would have gotten a false sense of security and it wouldn’t have done us any good. Tomorrow we’ll go back to work and figure out what things we have to fix and go from there.”
Turnovers continued to pile up for Arkansas, who had 10 in the first 20 minutes, allowing Rogers State to gain ground during a 3:08 Razorbacks scoring drought, shrinking the home team’s lead to 18-14 at the 7:53 mark, and Jones’ second foul at 6:29, brought the Hillcats within a field goal.
However, Arkansas’ strength on the offensive boards, 12 offensive rebounds in the first half compared to three by Rogers State, kept the Razorbacks in front with 12 second chance points.
After a timeout with 3:21 left before half time, Arkansas found its footing in the field, making two quick baskets and pulling away 24-15, forcing their opponents to call a timeout less than a minute later, but the time off the court made little difference to junior Ashley McCray who came back onto the court and immediately tossed in a layup, giving her six points for the half. Jones, though, was the star of the half with 11 points, the only Razorback in double digits through the first 20 minutes, two steals and a block.
After their late-half tear, the Hogs, who only shot 34.9 percent from the field in the half, headed to the locker room up 34-22 on the visitors from Claremore, Okla.
Next, the Razorbacks welcome Louisiana-Monroe to Bud Walton Arena for the start of the regular season, on Saturday Nov.15 at 1 p.m. For updated stats and complete women’s basketball coverage, log on to www.ArkansasRazorbacks.com.