FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Sarah Pfeifer scored a season-best 21 points to keep the 20th-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorback basketball team close, but a strong comeback by Mississippi State in the second half allowed it to sneak away from Bud Walton Arena with an 81-73 win in Fayetteville on Sunday afternoon.
The loss drops the Lady Razorbacks to 15-3 on the year and 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play while Mississippi State improves to 10-5 overall and 1-0 in league action.
“Sarah Pfeifer did everything she could to win this game,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “She played hard and she was the bright spot for us today.”
A tight contest from the start, neither team was able to get a foothold on the lead for most of the half. Eight lead changes and five more ties proved the back-and-forth nature of the half. Arkansas took its sixth lead of the opening period with 8:40 left, and then went on a 20-12 run that allowed it to build a 40-24 halftime advantage.
With its biggest lead of the game early in the second half, Mississippi State went on a spirited run that brought its deficit down to four. The Lady Razorbacks were able to stop the run momentarily, but after a brief break, the Bulldogs came back once again and tied the game at 47. Mississippi State took its first lead since the 8:48 mark of the first half when Miayorka Johnson sunk a layup to make the score 49-47.
“What’s most disappointing about this game is that we had a 10-point lead at home and we didn’t hold it,” Gardner said. “They wanted it more, it appeared that way from the coaches’ perspective.”
The Mississippi State comeback led to another flurry of lead changes. Despite the Bulldogs dominance on the boards, Arkansas still pounded the ball to the interior with Sarah Pfeifer and Laruen Ervin getting tough baskets in the key and drawing fouls on the Bulldogs. The Lady Razorbacks were also able to get big points out of Donica Cosby who used the pump fake to open easy lanes to the basket.
Helping Mississippi State in their upset bid was a dominating performance on the boards. For the game, the Bulldogs out rebounded Arkansas 45-32, and held a 10-plus rebounding margin for most of the contest. Mississippi State’s rebounding edge led to 18 second-chance points.
Arkansas’ loss is it’s second in a row making the New Year not as enjoyable as 2006 for the Lady Razorbacks. Pfeifer was one of three Lady Razorbacks to score in double figures along with Cosby (19) and Ervin (12). The Bulldogs were led by Marneshia Richard who scored a game-high 23. The Bulldogs also had three in double figures with Imeshia Jackson scoring 17 and Johnson draining 11.
One of the Lady Razorbacks’ biggest issues of the contest had to be its outside shot. While Arkansas out shot its opponent 43% to 41%, the Lady’Backs who usually are very good from behind the three-point arc, couldn’t find their shot hitting just six of 24.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action next Sunday afternoon when they travel to Auburn, Ala., to take on the Auburn Tigers at 2:00 p.m. For more information about Lady Razorback basketball or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.