SEC WOMEN:

Watkins just fine coming off pine

By: RICK HARVEY SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
NWA MEDIA/SAMANTHA BAKER -- Arkansas' Sarah Watkins right, moves around the outside of Keitra Wallace of Pepperdine Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Watkins scored 18 points for the Razorbacks, beating Pepperdine, 64-39.
Photo by Samantha Baker
NWA MEDIA/SAMANTHA BAKER -- Arkansas' Sarah Watkins right, moves around the outside of Keitra Wallace of Pepperdine Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Watkins scored 18 points for the Razorbacks, beating Pepperdine, 64-39.

— The Sarah Watkins experiment looks like it’s here to stay.

Watkins, Arkansas’ senior All-SEC second-team selection, continued to come off the bench and produce on Sunday, scoring a game-high 18 points as the Razorbacks beat Pepperdine 64-39 at Walton Arena.

“I’m not a coaching genius, but right now deciding to bring her off the bench looks like the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my coaching career,” said Razorbacks Coach Tom Collen, who picked up his 100th victory at Arkansas on Sunday. “I think we’ll probably stick to that, it’s been good for her. It keeps her out of foul trouble and as long as she can come in and get in a rhythm and continue to score for us it’s good for our team.”

Watkins scored 10 of her points over a 7:30 span in the second half to help Arkansas(7-1) extend a 10-point halftime advantage to a 55-29 lead.

“Coming off the bench was an idea to keep me out of foul trouble and it’s been working so far,” Watkins said. “I guess if it’s not broken don’t fix it, right? Just keep me coming off the bench.”

Arkansas continued to rely on its pressure defense again the Waves (2-5). The Razorbacks scored 20 points off turnovers and held Pepperdine to 26.9 percent shooting.

“We focus on our defense and we got some turnovers and got into the open court and were able to get some easy scores,” Watkins said. “That gave us momentum.”

Watkins was 8 of 8 from the free throw line, and senior Erin Gatling was 7 of 7 from the line and finished with 11 points. Keira Peak finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds, Jhasmin Bowen had 8 points and 6 rebounds and Melissa Wolff had 5 rebounds.

Arkansas outscored Pepperdine 14-9 to turn a 15-10 lead into a 29-19 halftime advantage, and Arkansas quickly put the game out of reach early in the second half outscoring Pepperdine 10-2 to make it 39-21.

“We forced them into taking some shots they normally wouldn’t have taken,” Peak said.

The Razorbacks out rebounded Pepperdine 20-11 in the second half.

“I was frustrated with our rebounding effort, although I did think we did better in the second half,” Collen said. “I think Pepperdine is a solid team. They’ve played a tough schedule and I think will be very competitive in their league [West Coast Conference].”

The Razorbacks shot 40.8 percent, despite connecting on just 1 of 12 three-pointers.

When asked about getting his 100th victory at Arkansas, Collen looked at the big picture.

“I’m certainly proud of it,” said Collen, who is in his sixth season with the Razorbacks. “It shows we’re averaging 18, 19 wins a season, and while that’s not good enough for me personally, it’s an indication we are slowly but surely turning the program around and heading in the right direction. That means more to me than anything else.”

Sports, Pages 15 on 12/03/2012

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