FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Sophomore C’eira Ricketts and senior Ashley McCray keyed a come-from-behind win for the University of Arkansas women’s basketball team Tuesday over Coppin State in Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks (6-2) trailed the entire first half after a lackluster effort in the opening 15 minutes but finished strong winning 72-51 over the Eagles (2-5).
“It was a game of two halves,” Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. “We played a zone tonight that we haven’t played before and really only worked on for about a half hour. We were a little lost with it and got flustered and turned the ball over.
“We talked about things at the half and settled down and played better in the second half,” Collen continued. “We were more focused and picked up the tempo.”
Ricketts and McCray sparked the comeback late in the first period as Arkansas outscored Coppin State 7-2 to end the frame. Trailing by six, sophomore Lyndsay Harris hit a big three-pointer after freshman Sarah Watkins got a block on the defensive end.
Watkins finished with five blocks in the first half, just one shy of the single game record of six held by Lauren Ervin (1999).
Arkansas next gave up a coast-to-coast layup to the Eagles but Ricketts responded with a jumper in the paint cutting into the Eagle lead.
Ricketts next grabbed a steal after another Watkins block. She drove the court and dished to sophomore Ashley Daniels for the layup with 12 seconds on the clock in the first half.
The Daniels basket made it 26-27 at the break.
Arkansas was more aggressive on both ends of the floor in the second half. CSU committed a quick foul after the inbounds play and McCray hit the free throw tying the game at 27. McCray missed the second bonus but stole the ball keeping Arkansas on the offensive.
The game was tied again at 29, before Arkansas was sent to the foul line converting both shots to take its first lead of the game, 31-29, with 17:42 to play.
Arkansas would never surrender the lead as Ricketts poured on the pressure. She had four points at the break and finished with a game-high 17, also a season-best for the Louisville, Ky., native. She added four boards, four assists and four steals handling the ball for much of the second half. The Razorbacks held a double-digit lead for the final seven minutes finishing with the 21-point advantage, its largest of the season.
“It was a slow start but we picked it up in the second half,” Ricketts said. “Overall, it was a good game. We weren’t as focused as we should have been to the start the game but we came together at the half and picked each other up.”
“Their point guard got up and guarded C’eira hard,” Collen said. “She (C’eira) likes to create off the dribble and she was able to get something going late in the first half. That carried over to the second half and she sparked us offensively.”
McCray meanwhile, had her hands full on both ends of the court as well. She played a season-best 21 minutes with a season-high 13 points. Her defensive pressure against the fives of Coppin State was critical down the stretch.
“I was really able to go low and bang tonight,” McCray said. “I really like to play against someone my size and have to battle for everything.”
Ricketts led all scorers with 17 and McCray added 13 for Arkansas. The Razorbacks got nine points from freshman Dominique Robinson and eight each from senior Charity Ford and Harris.
Watkins paced Arkansas defensively with seven board and five blocks. Daniels added five rebounds and Arkansas had four each from McCray, Ricketts, Robinson and Jamesha Townsend.
After trailing 25-18 on the boards at the half, Arkansas went on to win the rebounding war, 41-39, and outshot Coppin State 46.0-35.5 percent for the game.
Arkansas breaks from competition for final exams until Dec. 17 with a trip to Northwestern. The Razorbacks follow up at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 19-21, in the final games before the holidays.