GREENVILLE, SC – Mississippi State senior Tan White scored 38 points, but the Arkansas trio of sophomores led by Sarah Pfeifer would not be denied a victory in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“A player at this level isn’t going to be able to beat a team,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “We’ve been down a few times this year, but these guys fight to the end.”
Pfeifer had 23 followed by 18 from guard Kristin Peoples and 14 by Danielle Allen.
Arkansas faces the tournament’s No. 3 seed, 20th ranked Vanderbilt, at 8:15 central time Friday night.
Trailing by as many as 17 points in the first half and 11 at halftime, Arkansas rallied behind its inside tandem.
“When we cut it to five, I began to feel like we were going to turn it around,” Allen said.
“I’m so proud of these players and so happy that after the kind of season we have had this year that they get to feel this way after a game,” Gardner said.
Allen’s series of layups around the eight minute mark gave Arkansas its first lead since the opening minutes of the game. Her second at 8:17 put the Lady’Backs ahead for good.
White had blunted Arkansas’ previous runs, but the nation’s leading scorer missed six of seven field goal attempts down the stretch while the Lady’Backs pulled out to a six-point lead after a three-pointer from Rochelle Vaughn. Pfeifer followed with a layup to make it eight, 72-64, with 2:52 to play.
“When Rochelle hit the three, that’s when I began to feel like we finally had control of the game,” Gardner said.
The game opened with Arkansas sluggish and Pfeifer picking up two quick fouls. Still, Arkansas shot over 50% from the field and was leading by one, 19-18, after a breakaway steal and layup from Adrienne Bush.
State turned up the heat, holding Arkansas scoreless for the next four mintues and taking a 27-19 lead. White stepped up to pour on the points, scoring most of her 18 first-half points to push the Lady Bulldogs to a 17-point lead, 42-25, with 4:01 in the half.
As Arkansas stumbled toward halftime, Pfeifer returned to the game in the last minutes to score three of the Lady’Backs’ final four buckets. Her last two in the final 70 seconds started a 10-0 run that would span intermission.
Trailing 46-35 at half, Arkansas held Miss State without a score for almost four minutes. Meanwhile, six more unanswered brought Arkansas with five for the first time. White answered to regain the 11-point halftime lead, 54-43, with 14:52 to play.