MANHATTAN, Kan. – Freshman Ceira Ricketts led four Razorbacks in double-digits but the University of Arkansas could not overcome a hot-shooting Kansas State to lose in the championship game of the 14th annual Commerce Bank Wildcat Classic, 65-56, in Bramlage Coliseum.
The Wildcats, ranked 23rd in the WBCA/ESPN poll, moved to 6-0 on the season while Arkansas dropped to 7-2.
Ricketts had 18 points for the Razorbacks, followed by fellow freshman Lyndsay Harris and senior Ayana Brereton with 11 each. Whitney Jones rounded out the double digits with 10 before fouling out of the game with 2:01 left.
Ricketts and Jones were named to the all-tournament team.
Razorback head coach Tom Collen was pleased with his team’s composure and performance in spite of the loss.
“It was a battle all the way, and sometimes I don’t think a lot of people remember that Kansas State was the Big XII Champions last year,” Collen said. “They were the champions for a reason and they return a whole lot of players from that team.
“We battle them tooth and nail, and we took the game right down to the wire.”
Ricketts was the perfect example of the fight. The freshman from Louisville, Ky., had a season high, hitting 8-of-11 from the field, and did so playing with a stomach virus that kept her up the night before.
In a game anticipated to have strong defense based on the two team’s opening round performances, particularly for KSU which hit 9-of-20 from behind the arc.
The win as the 24th straight for Kansas State over non-conference opponents, and the third straight title for the Wildcats’ in their home tournament.
The Wildcats never trailed, but Arkansas tied the game at 38-38 with a 6-2 start to the second half, but Kari Kincaid hit back-to-back three-pointers to return the Wildcats to a six-point lead, 44-38, with 16:09.
The Razorbacks pulled close several times, but could not manage to tie again the rest of the game.
The two teams shot well above their respective averages in the first half with KSU hitting 52% to Arkansas’ 48%. The Razorbacks made more shots, but the halftime margin belonged to State thanks to 6-of-12 from behind the arc.
“This was one of our best shooting days,” Collen said. “We had good shot selection and we didn’t over-shoot the three-pointer.”
Back-to-back three pointers from Danielle Zanotti and Kincaid opened a 10-2 run by the Wildcats to open the game. Collen called a quick timeout to settle the Razorbacks and Arkansas responded with an 8-0 burst that opened with a Harris three-pointer. Brereton’s three-pointer tied the game 10-10 with 16:36, resulting in a KSU time out.
“When we were stunned early, we fired right back at them,” Collen said. “We responded each time they made a push against us.”
The Wildcats went back to the three-pointer and rebuilt their lead with a pair of treys from Ashley Sweat, 16-10, at 15:31. The teams traded small streaks with Arkansas pulling within two on a Brereton layup, 22-20, then later to one, 29-28, on a Jones breakaway layup, with four minutes left in the half.
KSU’s Shalee Lehning turned in 10 assists, right at her national leading average of 9.8 per game, and almost had the double-double with nine rebounds.
Sweat led all scorers with 19 points for the Wildcats. Marlies Gipson had 16 and Kincaid had 13.