NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Senior Whitney Jones recorded her fifth double-double of the season and freshman Ceira Ricketts came close to her second triple double but neither player’s effort was enough to advance the University of Arkansas as the Razorbacks lost to Ole Miss, 65-60, in the opening round of the 2009 Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Arkansas, 17-13, ends the regular season and awaits the announcement of the post-season women’s tournament brackets on Monday, March 16.
“It’s hurts and we’re extremely disappointed with two points,” UA head coach Tom Collen said. “The people of central Arkansas worked so hard to get this tournament again and we wanted to win for them so bad.
“It’s painful to lose, but we’re a work in progress,” Collen continued. “We have to be positive about the fact last year we were the 11th seed and this year we were the 8th seed. Last year, we were blown out in the first round and this year we were in there until the last minute. Still, it hurts.”
Jones led Arkansas with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Ricketts turned in 16 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists.
The Rebels, 17-13, advance to tomorrow’s second round against the 2009 SEC champion, Auburn, at noon in ALLTEL Arena.
The Razorbacks trailed by only two at half, 33-31, in spite of a singular effort by Ole Miss’ Bianca Thomas. The junior post scored 19 of Ole Miss first-half points, and closed with 31 for the game.
The second half saw the Razorbacks tie several times, taking the lead momentarily on a coast-to-coast layup by Ricketts, 47-46, with 8:47 to play.
Each time, Ole Miss answered the Razorback rallies with four or five point bursts to regain the lead.
Toward the end, Arkansas’ inability to control the basketball became the most significant stumbling block. After forcing 10 turnovers from Ole Miss in the first half, the Razorbacks caused only three Rebel miscues in the second half.
Meanwhile, Arkansas had 11 turnovers in the second half alone and 19 for the game which led to 22 points off turnover for Ole Miss compared to only six for Arkansas.
“We failed to execute in a lot of ways, and we’re going to go back to the drawing board and rebuild,” Collen said. “We clearly got into a rush on offense, particularly in the second half. When we’re in a tempo, when we’re in a rhythm, we’re a good offensive team. We just didn’t slow down and execute plays.”
Trailing 61-58, the Razorbacks final chance came with an improbable pair of missed free throws by Thomas with 20 seconds left, but Ole Miss senior Shawn Goff swooped in for the rebound of the second miss.
In the first half, Arkansas got a quick start from senior Ayana Brereton before a pair of three-pointers from Thomas got Ole Miss on a roll.
The back-and-forth game featured nine ties and 11 lead changes.
Arkansas also got 12 points from Lyndsay Harris. Ole Miss had 15 from Shantell Black.