OXFORD, Miss – Senior Brittney Vaughn led four Lady Razorbacks in double-digits, but Arkansas could not achieve the comeback, falling 63-55 to Mississippi in college women’s basketball at the Tad Smith Coliseum.
Arkansas, 15-2, drops to 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play while Ole Miss, 7-8, picks up its first league win at 1-1.
The game was Arkansas’ first without its leading scorer and rebounder, Lauren Ervin. The all-America candidate and first-team preseason led the SEC in rebounding before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in the closing minutes of the previous game.
“It’s hard when you lose a player like that, but we’ve got players that will fight and work hard to overcome that this season,” UA head coach Tom Collen said. “Losing on the road in the SEC is pretty common, but we’re pretty disappointed.”
The Lady’Backs shot only 27.6% in the first half, but hit 50% in the second to pull to within four points twice in the final minutes.
“We were flat at times early in the game, but we battled back from the double-digit deficit,” Collen said. “We had some fight in us.”
Ole Miss started 1-of-9 from the field in the second half, opening the door for a 10-3 Arkansas rally. Full-court pressure by Arkansas flustered the Ole Miss offense. Arkansas responded by cutting the 13-point halftime deficit down to four, 40-36, with 12:42 to play.
“Every time we went on a run, it seemed like there would be a turnover or they would get a big bucket,” Vaughn said. “We couldn’t seem to get the momentum back long enough in the second half.”
After the Lady Rebels pushed back to double-digits, Arkansas responded with back-to-back three-pointers by Vaughn and Sarah Pfeifer to cut the lead back to four, 46-42, at the eight minute mark.
Ole Miss tightened up their defense and went on the decisive run of the game. A 9-0 run to regain a double-digit lead, 55-42. Arkansas went five minutes without a field goal before another Vaughn three-pointer snapped the Lady Rebel run.
Battling to the end, Arkansas cut the lead under 10 but ran out of time in its comeback.
“We were a little tentative early,” Pfeifer said.
Arkansas went to Jones early as the 6-1 junior scored four of the first seven. Tied at 7-7 and both teams hitting over 50%, the Lady’Backs’ lost their shooting touch with only 1-of-9 for the next four minutes. Meanwhile, Ole Miss went on a 9-0 run led by back-to-back jumpers from Kayla Melson to lead 16-7.
Jones led Arkansas back to within five, 18-13, with 9:10 left in the half. Arkansas’ picked up only two field goals the rest of the half, outscored 13-5 for a 31-18 halftime.
“It was the worst possible thing that could have happened,” Collen said of the early Ole Miss lead. “There was no doubt in my mind that we would fight back, but it made it hard from the first.”
Arkansas hit only 27.6% from the field for the first half. In spite of a command of the backboards, 21-15 and an impressive 10-3 on the offensive glass, the inability to manage the basketball added to the Lady’Backs’ offensive woes. Arkansas had 10 first-half turnovers to only four for Ole Miss.
Jones finished with 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Pfeifer and Charity Ford each had 10 points for Arkansas.
Shawn Goff led all scorers with 17 for Ole Miss. The Lady Rebels had 12 each from Elizabeth Robertson and Kyla Melson. Carla Bartee came off the bench to round out the double digit scorers with 10.
Arkansas remains on the road next week at Alabama on Thursday, Jan. 17. The game tips off at 6 p.m. central time and will be televised in the northwest Arkansas area on Cox Sports.