FAYETTEVILLE – Junior Kristin Peoples scored a career-high 23 points to lead the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback basketball team to a convincing 88-69 win over Grambling State at Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night.
Peoples was one of three Lady Razorbacks to score in double digits – all from the bench. Along with Peoples, freshman Ayana Brereton also scored a career high with 18 points, seven in the final moments of the contest.
The win improves the Lady Razorbacks to 3-2 on the year while Grambling falls to 2-1. Arkansas’ win is its fifth in five opportunities against Grambling all-time and stops a two-match losing streak for the Lady Razorbacks.
“I was pleased with the way we closed the first half,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “We had folks come off the bench to give us a big spark.”
Brereton had her career high by halftime, and the freshman was near-perfect for the game with 6-of-9 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line.
“I felt good tonight, and I know Coach had confidence in me,” Brereton said. “I wanted to step up for her.”
“We knew she had all the athletic ability in the world,” Peoples said of Brereton. “She stepped up and gave us a spark.”
“If she gives us that kind of spark off the bench every game, that’s a great relief to me as a coach to know I’ve got that kind of player available,” Gardner said. “Ayana and Whitney (Jones) are a pair of freshman that have been getting better every day in practice, and you saw it tonight for the first time for Ayana. She did some big-time things tonight.”
Gardner shook up the starting lineup after losing at Portland State, and the Lady’Backs responded with one of the best games of the season, particularly for former starting point guard Peoples.
“Obviously, I wanted to see how some players would react after earning the start the past two days in practice, and how some would react coming off the bench,” Gardner said. “Peeps (Peoples) responded in a very positive way.”
“I was just focused on limiting my turnovers and running the team tonight,” Peoples said. “I knew when I got in there I had to make something happen.”
Having built up a 12-point halftime lead, the Lady Razorbacks gladly traded baskets with the Tigers for a good portion of the second period. Tough Arkansas defense continued to be Arkansas’ hallmark as it forced 26 Grambling turnovers in the contest. Those Lady Tiger miscues led to 25 Lady Razorback points as opposed to Grambling’s nine points on Arkansas’ 14 turnovers.
“We spent a lot of time working on our pressure defense in the second half,” Gardner said. “Everyone contributed tonight, and that’s fun for everyone.”
Late in the contest, a tired Grambling squad failed to make its shots as their team shooting percentage dropped from the mid 40s to 36 percent. Meanwhile, Arkansas took advantage of the tired legs of its opponent running up and down the court and increasing its lead.
In the final minutes, Grambling did cut into Arkansas’ game high 24-point lead, but it was Brereton that kept the Tigers at bay as she scored nearly half her total with less then four minutes left in the contest.
“We knew she was a sleeper,” Grambling coach Rusty Ponton said. “But she was the difference maker, especially in the first half. That bench came in and made the difference.”
Any hopes that Arkansas had of running Grambling out of the gym in the first half were squashed early as the Lady Tigers used solid shooting as well as an ability to take free shots at the charity stripe to hang within five for most of the half. Arkansas did take a seven-point lead at 12 minutes, but the Lady Tigers came right back to pull within one at the 5:38 mark. From that point on it was all Lady Razorbacks as they scored 12 of the next 13 points to go into the break with a 12-point, 40-28 lead.
Peoples was the catalyst of the Arkansas run as she scored the first five points on a pair of free throws and a three-pointer created by one of Arkansas’ nine offensive rebounds. Helping the Lady Tigers along the way were their 10 made free throws and the acrobatics of Juleen Smith and Kourtney Sherman who continuously threw up crazy shots only to see them drop into the net, much to Arkansas’ chagrin.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action on Thursday evening when they take on the Univ. of Tulsa at Bud Walton Arena at 7:00 p.m. For more information about Lady Razorback basketball or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.