ARLINGTON, Texas – University of Arkansas freshman Keira Peak scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds willing the Razorbacks to a nail-biting 57-54 win at Texas-Arlington Wednesday.
The Razorbacks (8-0) remain perfect on the year despite a less-than-perfect performance. Peak led all scorers with 15 followed by 13 from junior C’eira Ricketts and 12 from sophomore Sarah Watkins.
"I have to give this team a lot of credit," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "They got down in the first half but fought back to get the lead. UTA fought back and got the lead and we had to come back again. We did it with kids who are pretty exhausted and I didn’t really sub a lot with the game being tight in the second half.
"I really had no idea when we signed Keira about how much upside she has," Collen continued. "We knew she would be a good player for us down the road but she’s turned into a gamer. She likes to play and plays the game with a lot of passion. Without her right now, we’d be in big trouble."
For the second game in a row, Arkansas struggled in the opening frame looking unsettled to start the contest. But Arkansas also rallied late in the period for the second consecutive game taking a 28-26 lead into the break.
It was again Peak who kept Arkansas in the game in the first half. Peak scored six points and had three rebounds, one assist and two steals in the first 20 minutes.
Junior Ashley Daniels and Ricketts also had six points each in the first half with Daniels leading the team with five boards.
Arkansas trailed much of the first half but junior Lyndsay Harris hit a three from the right side elbow with 1:49 remaining in the first half tying the game for the fifth time.
The Razorbacks got the ball back after a UTA miss and Peak gave the Razorbacks the lead with a 12-foot jumper from the left side. UTA scored again tying the game and on their next possession UTA succumbed to Arkansas’ pressure turning the ball over.
With the seconds ticking off the clock, Ricketts was fouled and hit both bonus shots giving Arkansas the lead at the break.
Arkansas jumped out quickly to start the second half and seemed to have the momentum on their side. After UTA tied the game at 28, Arkansas scored five unanswered points and stretched the lead to eight, 40-32, at the 13:07 mark.
But the Mavericks would not go away. A couple of UTA steals and easy baskets quickly closed the gap until the game was tied for the seventh time at 41-all.
A sea-saw battle followed with neither team able to lead by more than four points. Arkansas, in fact, had a four-point advantage with 17 seconds on the clock after Ricketts hit one of two free throws. It is the second consecutive game in which Ricketts’ late free throws have been significant.
Both teams made some substitutions, but Arkansas committed a foul with eight seconds on the clock. UTA made both bonus shots, closing within two, 56-54.
More subs were made and Arkansas in-bounded the ball to Peak. She was fouled making one of two free throws giving Arkansas a three-point edge.
UTA heaved a desperation three that rattled off the rim and fell out as the clock expired.
Arkansas shot almost 37 percent for the game on a 21-for-57 performance. The Razorbacks were 2-for-14 from three-point range and 13-for-22 from the line. Arkansas out-rebounded UTA 46-40 for the game.
UTA shot 32.3 percent and was 20-for-62 for the game. The Mavericks made four threes and were 10-for-16 from the line. UTA’s leading scorer, Tamara Simmons, entered the game averaging more than 19 ppg but was held to four points. Simmons did not have a field goal until late in the game.
The Razorbacks remain in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday night, departing for Salt Lake City, Utah, Thursday. They face Utah Saturday at 1 p.m.