SEC WOMEN:

Unranked UA women subdue No. 17 Kansas

By: MARTY COOK SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Friday, December 7, 2012
NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS --12/06/2012-- Arkansas forward Quistelle Williams drives past Kansas defender Monica Engelman to score on a fast break during the first half of Thursday night's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS --12/06/2012-- Arkansas forward Quistelle Williams drives past Kansas defender Monica Engelman to score on a fast break during the first half of Thursday night's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

— It’s never too early to look ahead.

Arkansas earned its first signature victory of the season, holding off previously unbeaten and No. 17 Kansas 64-56 in front of 1,356 fans Thursday at Walton Arena. The Razorbacks (8-1) are 7-0 when they lead at halftime, but the Jayhawks (7-1) rallied to take the lead before Arkansas came back to win.

The Razorbacks shook off Kansas’ threat, turning a 43-42 deficit with nine minutes left in the game into a 54-45 lead with a little more than four minutes left. Arkansas’ interior game powered the clinching rally as forwards Jhasmin Bowen and Quistelle Williams teamed with center Sarah Watkins for 10 of the 12 points scored as Arkansas outscored Kansas 12-2.

Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said he hoped the victory solidified his players’ growing confidence in themselves but thought it also might pay off at the end of the season when selections for the NCAA Tournament are made. Quality victories, such as one against a ranked opponent, help raise a prospective team’s merits.

“It’s a big win for a lot of reasons,” Collen said. “Most importantly, it was for their confidence, making a statement to themselves. You can’t act like that until you go out and beat good teams.”

And Arkansas beat Kansas, outrebounding the Jayhawks 47-31 including 20-10 on the offensive boards and forcing 19 turnovers. The Razorbacks, intent on shutting down Kansas’ inside game, outscored the Jayhawks 28-14 in the paint.

“We were ready for them,” said Watkins, who scored 14 points. “We were ready to come out and prove ourselves. We were ready to give another ranked team a shot.”

Arkansas lost 73-70 to Oklahoma on Nov. 23 in Hawaii and it looked like the Razorbacks would wilt under Kansas’ early scoring burst.

The Razorbacks trailed but used a 10-0 and a 7-0 run to take control of the game going into halftime.

“I’m disappointed with our effort and our toughness,” Kansas Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We gave up all those offensive rebounds. We weren’t flying around and we weren’t aggressive.”

Watkins (10 points) and freshman Melissa Wolff (five points) helped sparked the first-half turnaround in the absence of Williams, who played poorly in two first-half stints and drew Collen’s ire.

“He chewed me out,” Williams said.

Williams made up for it in the second half, scoring 13 points to finish with a teamhigh 15. Williams and guard Calli Berna scored the team’s last 12 points of the game.

“We just kept our composure,” Williams said. “I’m a senior and a captain. I had to step up and play big. That’s what I did.”

Collen said the victory, and how it was achieved through responding to Kansas’ retaking the lead in the second half, reinforced his belief in this year’s team. Last year’s team, which made the NCAA Tournament, developed the ability to pull out tough victories, and Thursday was Arkansas’ first real success at doing it this year.

“They just stuck to it,” Collen said. “Somewhere inside these kids, they have a lot of confidence. I believe in what these kids could do. [Thursday] was a big step in the right direction.”

Sports, Pages 22 on 12/07/2012

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