FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Shameka Christon scored a game high 24 points to lead the University of Arkansas women’s basketball team to a 67-61 victory over the University of Mississippi Lady Rebels at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville on Sunday afternoon.
The win improves the Lady Razorbacks to 12-3 on the season and more importantly 1-1 in SEC play while Ole Miss falls to 10-6 overall and 1-1 in conference action. The Lady Razorbacks remain undefeated at home this season at 6-0.
“We hit our free throws today,” Arkansas head coach Susie Gardner said. “I didn’t think that we felt comfortable in the first half. I was pleased with the way we came back out in the second.”
“This was a great SEC game,” Ole Miss head coach Carolyn Ross said. “I thought we did a good job early, but great players always seem to find a way to get it done and Christon did a great job in the seocnd half. It was a dissappointing loss for us, but a huge win for Arkansas.”
Tough defenese and a hot hand from the floor allowed the Lady Razorbacks to pull back within two with 7:18 to go. Points from Christon followed by a three from the corner by Shanna Harmon forced Ole Miss to call a timeout and regroup. Following the break, Arkansas’ defense came up big again as Harmon picked up a charge call on the Lady Rebels.
“I told my coaches to remind me to get Shanna into the game,” Gardner said. “She isn’t in the regular rotation because she’s been hurt and she hit three big shots for us today.”
“Shanna is a great shooter,” Christon said. “When she comes out and hits her shots it makes us feel great.”
Arkansas took its first lead since the opening moments of the contest at 4:52 when Christon came up big once more and drilled a three from the right side to put the Lady’Backs up 51-50. A see-saw battle throughout the closing moments, Ole Miss took a 56-55 lead, but freshman Kristen Peoples converted on an old fashioned three-point play to give the Lady’Backs their biggest lead of the afternoon at 58-56. Moments later a three by the Lady Rebels Carletta Brown out Ole Miss up 59-58.
On the ensuing posession, it was Christon once again that was the difference maker as she blocked an Ole Miss shot just outside the paint on the baseline, which Peoples picked up and dribbled into the Ole Miss half of the floor with two seconds separating the end of the game and the shot clock. The Lady Rebels elected on fouling the freshman who was two of three for the game and 56% for the season. Peoples hit her first shot, then missed the second, but senior Katrina Nesby grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws of her own to give Arkansas a 63-59 lead.
“We worked on that play at practice,” Christon said of the blocked shot. “Coach talked to us about rotating to the ball and I went there hoping to get either a block or to contest the shot without fouling and I ended up with the block.”
In its best free throw game of the season, the Lady Razorbacks hit nine of 10 in the closing 30 seconds to ice the contest and sneak away with the victory. For the contest, Arkansas was 21 of 24 from the charity stripe for 87.5 percent. Not just from its big guns, four Lady Razorbacks hit free throws as the game ended to preserve the victory.
A slow start in the opening minutes forced the Lady’Backs to play catch-up fo the entire game. Ten early turnovers in the opening 15 minutes accounted for 12 Ole Miss points but Arkansas settled down in the closing minutes of the frame.
Back-to-back three-pointers in the final seven minutes closed the gap but Arkansas trailed 33-26 at the break. Christon paced Arkansas with nine first-half points but poor team shooting, just nine of 26, hurt the home team’s cause.
A nice move under the basket by Kristen Moore brought Arkansas within six, trailing 28-22, with just under three minutes to play, but it was points in the paint that really hurt the Lady’Backs as Ole Miss knocked down 26 of its 33 in the key. Two long scoring droughts also put the Lady’Backs behind. A six-minute break and a three-minute span allowed Ole Miss to score 16 unanswered points.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action next Sunday afternoon when they travel to Columbia, S.C., to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks at 1:00 p.m. central in another key SEC contest.