FAYETTEVILLE – Sophomore point guard Rochelle Vaughn tallied 12 points for the University of Arkansas women’s basketball team, but despite her best efforts its was not enough to undo the damage inflicted by the 22nd-ranked Auburn University Tigers, as the Lady Razorbacks fell 71-44 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
The loss drops the Lady Razorbacks to 13-5 overall and 2-3 in Southeastern Conference play, while Auburn improves to 15-4 and 3-2 in conference action. The win was a historic one for Auburn head coach Joe Champy who notched the 600th win of his career.
The Tigers got off to a fast start behind their athleticism and strong shooting. Hitting better than 70 percent from the floor over the first six minutes of action, Arkansas had to play catchup, but did just that and earned its first lead of the contest at 14:39 when Shanna Harmon, who came of the bench for the Lady Razorbacks, buried her second three to put Arkansas up 13-12.
“To state the obvious, Auburn has a great team,” Arkansas head coach Susie Gardner said. “We didn’t play well today, but I don’t want to take anything away from their effort. There were very few sparks today. I was pleased with some of the shots that we got off, but I wasn’t pleased with the defensive effort.”
Following Arkansas’ first lead, neither team was able to pick up a clear advantage in the contest. The squads exchaged leads three times and tied four times over the next nine minutes with the largest lead coming on Auburn’s side of the ledger at four points. Auburn did begin to wear down the Lady’Backs late in the first half as it picked up several free thorw opportunities and a pair of easy buckets, but a resilient Arkansas effort kept the contest a three-point game at the break, 32-29.
“It was a great defensive team effort,” Auburn head coach Joe Ciampi said. “I definitely couldn’t have scripted a better execution of what we had to do to beat a good Arkanas team.”
Following halftime, Arkansas’ shooting touch dried up and the Tigers pounded the ball into the paint forcing numerous Lady Razorback fouls and building the Auburn lead to more than 10 points. With only two points at the half, Shameka Christon tried to ignite the crowd with a three from the right side of the key, then following an Auburn layup, Kristin Peoples hit a trey of her own from the right corner to know the Auburn lead down to 11 with 12 minutes to play.
The Tigers zone defense and aggressive nature on the offensive end allowed them to increase their lead to 19 as the clock ticked down to eight minutes. Arkansas could not seem to find the answer to break the Tiger 2-3 zone. Shooting and impressive 30 percent from three point land at halftime, that number plumeted to 25 percent by game’s end. Hitting five of 17 in the first, half, the Lady Razorbacks managed just three second half threes allowing Auburn to stay in its zone.
Arkansas’ leading scorer, Christon scored just five points in the contest, only slightly better than her low from last season of three at Auburn in 2003. Despite her lack of scoring, Christon did help her club with 10 rebounds and three assists. Auburn was led by Le’Coe Willingham who scored a game high 22 points and picked up a double-double with 10 boards. Natasha Brackett hit for 16 and Nicole Louden and Marita Payne had 10 each.
“I didn’t get very many open looks,” Christon said. “If I wanted to get a shot off, they forced me to rush it. It was a great match-up zone defense.”
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action on Thursday, Jan. 29, when they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Tip off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.