FAYETTEVILLE – Behind the near pinpoint shooting of junior Leslie Howard and her 24 points, the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback basketball team upset the 24th-ranked University of Florida Gators at Bud Walton Arena on Thursday night, 69-63.
The win improves the Lady Razorbacks to 13-6 overall on the season and 5-1 in Southeastern Conference action while Florida falls to 15-4 overall and 3-3 in conference play.
“It was a team effort tonight,” Howard said. “We had to fight back and at the end, we made the stops we needed to make.”
In a game of runs, Florida took control early with a 16-2 burst, only to watch as Arkansas returned fire with a 16-0 run spanning halftime.
“We’re becoming accustomed to this position of fighting back,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “It feels awesome, but we’re got to keep plugging and move on to the next game.”
The win extends Arkansas’ best start in SEC play, and combined with league results puts the Lady’Backs in second place.
A rough game from the outset for the Lady Razorbacks, Arkansas spotted its opponent an 8-0 lead before Rochelle Vaughn scored Arkansas’ first points on a three at 17:21 in the first. The field goal sparked a tremendous Arkansas run that included four three-pointers over the next two minutes to tie the game at 12. Vaughn and Howard were the shooters, spotting up for split-second open looks thanks to crisp Lady Razorback passing.
Unfortunately for the Lady Razorbacks, their inability to score creeped up again as they would go without a basket for the next eight minutes and give the Gators a 14-point lead with as little as 4:42 in the half. Down but not out, the Lady’Backs would come storming back and outscore their opponent 11-0 in the final minutes to head into the locker room down by just three. Helping Arkansas out on their run was cold Florida shooting and four turnovers while the Lady’Backs got quality scoring chances from all over the court with five Lady’Backs scoring points on the run.
Arkansas opened the second half with the same intensity that allowed them to claw back from a 14-point deficit when a strong defensive play was followed by a three-pointer by Melissa Hobbs at the 19:25 mark which tied the game at 30, the first tie since 12-12 in the first half. Another solid defensive effort led to Kristina Andjelkovic’s 15-footer which game the Lady Razorbacks their first lead of the game at 18:42.
Without a basket for seven minutes, Florida came right back with a pair of scores to retake the lead and garner a four-point lead. That advantage slowly grew to seven, but stingy Arkansas defense and timely shooting kept the Gators from moving too far ahead, but the shots stopped falling as the clock approached 12 minutes to play and Florida was able to increase its lead to 10.
With a little determination of its own, Arkansas slowly closed the gap with Florida over the next three minutes and as the clock neared the eight-minute media timeout, the Lady’Backs were shockingly down by just two. A Florida basket made it a four-point contest, but Howard bounced back with a three to make it a one-point contest. Defense was the Arkansas calling card once again as an Adrienne Bush steal and subsequent lay-up gave the Lady’Backs their second lead of the contest at the seven minute mark, but Florida would regain the lead moments later.
Arkansas’ eagle-eye Howard would hit her fourth three of the night to give the Lady’Backs another lead, this one two points and the Lady’Backs would hold the advantage the rest of the way. Her fifth and sixth in the final minutes would give Arkansas its largest lead of the night, four points, with 42 seconds to play. A pair of Vaughn free throws iced the contest with 15 seconds to go
The Lady Razorbacks go on the road for their next game against the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C. For more information about Lady Razorback basketball or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.