ST. LOUIS – Junior Brittney Vaughn came within a rebound of a triple double as the 23rd-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorbacks had their closest call of the non-conference season, rallying past the St. Louis Billikens, 66-59, at Baumann-Eberhardt Center.
Arkansas extends its record season start to 15-1 while St. Louis dropped to 8-6.
Vaughn finished the game with 13 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, but it was her overall play that was crucial to Arkansas’ late game comeback.
“Brittney played exceptional, she played with fire and she kept us in the game,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “Down the stretch, it was a gutty performance.”
Arkansas also got 12 points and 14 rebounds from Lauren Ervin and 13 from Sarah Pfeifer off the bench.
Leading by 12 at half, Arkansas went stone cold to begin the second and allowed St. Louis to lead by as many as eight before putting the defensive clamps on the Billikens.
“We played about 35 minutes, and they played a tough game,” Gardner said. “This was a tough win for us, but we’ll take it.”
Even after Arkansas regained the lead, the Billikens would not go away, trimming the Lady’Back lead to three twice in the final minute. Arkansas needed free throws to keep St. Louis at bay, and a crucial free throw rebound from Sarah Pfeifer.
“That rebound was huge, huge,” Gardner said. “I know that she will do things in the final minute, and that’s why she’s in the game at the end.”
A 7-0 run to open the second half pulled St. Louis to within seven, 34-27. Arkansas started the second half as cold as it was hot in the first, hitting only two from its first 12 field goals for 16%.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Tyler McIlwraith and Theresa Lisch and a driving layup by Maggie Hennegan capped a 10-2 run to tie the game at 41-41 with 11:43 to play. The teams exchanged jumpers before a wide-open long three-pointer by Lisch gave St. Louis its first lead of the game, 46-43, at 10:09.
From there the Billikens extended the lead to eight, 51-43, before Ervin snapped a three-minute scoring drought for Arkansas.
Now trailing 51-45, Vaughn took charge of the game on both ends of the court. The junior guard took a charge from the Billikens, then handed out a crucial assist to set up Donica Cosby on a three-pointer.
The 5-7 junior extended Arkansas’ next possession with a huge rebound and pass to Ervin leading to a pair free throws and Arkansas regaining the lead, 52-51, with 5:03 to play.
Arkansas defense clamped down to hold St. Louis scoreless for five minutes down the stretch. A pair of free throws by Katie Pagnelli snapped the scoreless run, but Vaughn answered with a coast to coast layup for her double-double.
“At the eight minute time out, we changed the defense to stop what they were doing, and it worked,” Gardner said.
After back-to-back three-point shooting exhibitions, Arkansas opened the game by scoring its first seven field goals in the lane to lead 15-11. Danielle Allen and Lauren Ervin had four each, but could not shake the pesky Billikens for the first 12 minutes.
Struggling from behind the arc with five straight misses, Dominique Washington’s three-pointer with 5:39 gave Arkansas its first three-pointer and a nine-point lead, 24-16.
Arkansas built a double digit lead by the end of the half, carrying a 14-point margin into the locker room, 34-20.
The Lady’Backs continued to pound the ball inside, finishing the first half with 22 points in the paint. Directing the inside attack, Vaughn had seven assists by half as Arkansas shot 55.2% from the field. Defensively, the Lady’Backs held the Atlantic 10’s highest scoring offense in check with only 29% from the field by half.
The scoring was spread out early as Pfeifer came off the bench to score eight in the first half and Ervin had six points with seven boards.
Lisch led four Billikens in double digits with 19 points. Hennigan and McIlwriath had 14 each with 12 from Paginelli.
Arkansas stays on the road next week to open Southeastern Conference play at Vanderbilt on Thursday, Jan. 4.