FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Whitney Jones missed just two shots and hit for 13 points to lead the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback basketball team but despite her efforts, Arkansas fell to the 25th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores, 63-50, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville on Thursday night.
Vanderbilt improves to 20-7 on the year and 9-3 in Southeastern Conference play while Arkansas drops to 17-8 overall and 2-9 in league action.
“It’s not getting any easier coming in here off loses,” Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. “It’s not any easier for the kids either. We won’t give up on them though. The kids made mistakes which ultimately cost them the game, but they are still out there trying. I thought that the score was not indicative of the way the game was played, but they are a pretty good basketball team.”
“I felt like we were knocking down shots and things were going well,” Jones said. “I just tried to stay confident in myself because my teammates were depending on me.”
The opening minutes of the contest were marred by turnovers and missed shots as the two teams combined for 0-9 from the floor with four turnovers. Arkansas’ Ayana Brereton broke the more than four-minutes of scoreless play when she connected on a layup at 15:46 prompting Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb to trump the first media break with a timeout. The back-to-back breaks in action helped the Commodore cause as they rattled off 10 of the next 12 points to take a 10-4 lead before senior Sarah Pfeifer drained a three from the top of the key to get Arkansas back in the contest.
Falling behind by as many as eight to the 25th-ranked team in the nation, the Lady Razorbacks came storming back in the final moments of the first half to bring themselves within one with 20 seconds to play. Arkansas’ last-ditch effort for a shot saw freshman point guard Shanita Arnold drive the ball to the hoop but her contested shot was off the mark and the teams went into the break with Vanderbilt holding a precarious 26-25 lead.
“We’ve been shooting the ball well from three the last couple of games.” Vanderbilt coach Balcomb said. They did a good job of taking away looks from our leading scorer. We wanted to attack and drive and get them in foul trouble but they wouldn’t get in foul trouble. They did a good job of getting to the interior of our zone and did a good job of hitting the three. They were also able to spread us out and get the ball inside to Jones.”
The two teams would continue to trade baskets through the opening moments of the second half, but as the midway point approached, Vanderbilt rebuilt its lead. With 11 minutes to play the Commodores had rebuilt their lead to seven, but a three-point play by Pfeifer once again cut into the advantage. A defensive stop by the Lady’Backs gave them a chance to cut into the Vanderbilt lead again and that came on a Brittney Richardson three-pointer from the corner. Up by just a point, Vanderbilt came back with a three of its own followed by a pair of stops and buckets to grab its largest lead of the game, nine points, 51-42.
A brief run by the Lady’Backs in the waning moments of the contest was weathered by the Commodores, then countered allowing Vanderbilt to pull away in the final two minutes of play.
Behind Jones’ 13, Pfeifer dropped in 11 to be the only Lady Razorbacks in double figures. Vanderbilt was led by Jessica Mooney with 14, Jennifer Risper, 12, and Christina Wirth, 10.
The Lady Razorbacks return to the court on Sunday afternoon when they host Kentucky at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville beginning at 2:00 p.m. For more information about Lady Razorback basketball or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.