FAYETTEVILLE – Junior Leslie Howard may have led the University of Arkansas in scoring with 13 including the game-winning free throw in overtime, but it was the Sisters Vaughn that provided the crucial plays as the Lady Razorbacks upset 19th-ranked Vanderbilt University at Bud Walton Arena on Sunday afternoon, 52-51.
Sophomore Brittney Vaughn’s 44-foot prayer at the buzzer of regulation sent the game into overtime, and senior Rochelle Vaughn’s three-pointer with 14 seconds left in overtime tied the contest at 51-51.
The win improves the Lady Razorbacks to 10-5 on the year and more importantly to 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play, their best start since the 2002-03 season. Vanderbilt falls to 11-4 on the year and 0-1 in SEC play.
“We played with so much passion and so much pride today,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “Vanderbilt has a great team and outsized us in the post, but our little 6-0 posts played their tails off and we got great plays at the end of the game.”
Down by three with just seconds left to play, Vanderbilt’s Dee Davis hit one of two free throws to put the Commodores up by three at the end of regulation. Vaughn grabbed the rebound and took off down the right side of the court and heaved a prayer from 40 feet that found nothing but the bottom of the net to tie the game and force overtime.
“It’s a love-hate relationship because I was so mad at Brittney for the way we ended the half, but I’m so happy with her now,” Gardner said. “This was the first game I’ve put her out there at the end of the game in a close game, and I thought she had brought us this far she had earned the chance to try for the win.”
“I knew when Davis missed that we had a chance, but I knew I couldn’t hang on to the ball for long,” Brittney said. “I knew I was tired, so I wanted to get as far up the floor as I could before letting it go.”
The shot sent a see-saw game dominated by defense into overtime where Arkansas got the early advantage.
“Her shot gave us confidence,” Howard said. “Overall, this was probably our best defensive game we’ve played this year.”
The overtime period provided those in attendance with the same type of tough defense that made the contest such a low-scoring affair. Through the first four minutes, only six points would be scored, with Arkansas drawing first blood on a Melissa Hobbs 10 footer. Vandy would score the next two baskets to hold a precarious two-point advantage which eventually was stretched to three on a free throw by Holly Rogers. Rochelle Vaughn would tie the score with another three-pointer with less than 15 seconds to play and a Howard rebound and drawn foul on Vanderbilt’s next possession gave Arkansas an opportunity for the lead with 2.1 to play. Hitting the first of two, Howard missed the second, but Vanderbilt was unable to get off a shot.
“They were worried about Leslie, and we ran the play for Ro thinking that she would get open,” Gardner said. “She did, and she drilled it.”
“Sarah (Pfeifer) told me in the time out before that last play that I needed to step up and take over the game,” Rochelle Vaughn said. “I could see that Leslie was covered so I took the shot.”
“Besides, I couldn’t let my little sister outdo me,” Rochelle added with a laugh.
The game began with strong defense on both sides of the ball as the two squads attempted to locate its opponents weakness. An 8-8 game 11 minutes in, both teams struggled to hit their shots as they each posted shooting percentages in the low 30s. Arkansas got a spark off the bench when Melissa Howard drained three-pointers on consecutive Arkansas possessions to give the Lady’Backs a 14-10 lead, their largest of the half to that point.
Not long after, Sheree Thompson hit Arkansas’ third three of the half to give the Lady’Backs a seven-point lead. Arkansas’ lead grew to as many as eight in the waning moments of the half before three unanswered Commodore points made it a 24-19 game heading into the half. Arkansas was able to hold its opponent to under 20 points for the fourth time this season while Vanderbilt’s 19 points are the fewest its scored in a 20-minute stretch this season.
The second half began as a see-saw battle between the two clubs. Arkansas would score 10 points over the opening eight minutes, but following the 12:31 mark would go scoreless for the next four minutes. Vanderbilt wasted no time in taking advantage of Arkansas’ lack of scoring in the half as they poured in 18 points over the time frame to take a three-point lead.
The Commodores took their first lead since the 11:23 mark in the first half when Carla Thomas hit a three-foot jumper with 17:55 to go in regulation. The Lady Razorbacks would trail for the rest of the second half after giving up the advantage but with the crowd behind them, never fell more than four-point behind their ranked foe.
In the closing moments of the contest, Howard drove the lane and hit a lay-up to bring Arkansas within one with 1:20 to play and Adrienne Bush’s steal on the next possession kept the crowd active. Howard would then hit one of two from the free throw line to tie the score late, but Vanderbilt’s Dee Davis came right back with a lay-up to give the Commodores the lead forcing Arkansas to foul. Davis’ missed free throw gave Vaughn the opportunity she needed to perform her heroics as the buzzer sounded.
Leading Arkansas to its halftime lead was the strength of its three-point shooting as it hit four of 10 in the opening 20 minutes. What helped Arkansas in the beginning hurt them in the second half and overtime as it scored just four of its next 18 three-point shots, but two came in timely fashion including the desperation shot at the buzzer and the game-tying bucket in overtime.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action on Thursday evening when they take on the Auburn Tigers at Bud Walton Arena at 7:00 p.m. For more information about Lady Razorback basketball or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.