Arkansas women pull it together

Published: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Arkansas women’s Coach Tom Collen talks with his team during the first half of Friday’s game against Northwestern State at Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 80-41.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas women’s Coach Tom Collen talks with his team during the first half of Friday’s game against Northwestern State at Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 80-41.

— It took a little longer than expected, but Arkansas made sure to give Tom Collen a nice 59th birthday.

The Razorbacks overcame an erratic first half to put away Northwestern (La.) State 80-41 in front of 1,033 fans Friday at Walton Arena. Arkansas (11-1) made its coach suffer a bit after committing 15 first-half turnovers and not putting away the Lady Demons (4-5) until the second half.

Collen was unhappy with the way his team played in the first half, calling a timeout a little more than four minutes into the game despite Arkansas having an 11-4 lead. The Razorbacks never quite straightened themselves out until the second half, although the Lady Demons were never really in the game.

“We obviously were a little lackluster in the first half,” Collen said. “Those kids didn’t play their best 20 minutes, but they took the criticism, made the adjustments and moved on. That will be the difference in a win or a loss in the SEC.”

The Lady Demons pestered the Razorbacks with some ball-hawking guards as Northwestern State tried to compensate for a lack of size. Collen said he was bothered by the fact the Lady Demons’ pressure affected his team,but Arkansas committed only seven second-half turnovers.

Arkansas still outscored the Lady Demons 30-3 off turnovers. Northwestern State had 23 turnovers in the game.

“It was awful,” Collen said. “We haven’t had a night like that. I don’t know where it came from.”

Northwestern State Coach Brooke Stoehr said her team hadn’t played in 17 days because of a quirk in the schedule and her players were understandably tired of practicing against each other. She said she wasn’t disappointed with the blowout loss.

“You don’t get too excited about a 39-point loss, but they really competed well,” Stoehr said. “Overall, I’m pleased with our effort.”

The Razorbacks, when they handled the pressure defense, were relentless on offense, especially inside. Sophomore forward Jhasmin Bowen scored a career-high 17 points and was 7 of 9 from the field.

Junior guard Dominique Robinson, showing signs of recovering from off season abdominal surgery, had 15 points, and senior center Sarah Watkins had 14.

The Razorbacks out rebounded Northwestern State 45-21.

“They could score any time they wanted to when they caught the ball on the block,” Stoehr said.

A bright spot for Arkansas was Robinson, who started 32 games as a sophomore. Robinson has missed nearly as many games as she has played and entered Friday’s game averaging 3.8 points a game.

Robinson hit all five of her shots, including two three pointers.

“I felt like I was in a rhythm,” Robinson said. “It has been a long time coming. I just went with it. It’s a challenge. It is extremely frustrating when you have to teach yourself how to shoot over and over.”

The Razorbacks controlled the entirety of the first half but could never pull away completely from the Lady Demons. Arkansas scored the game’s first five points and took a 10-point lead at 14-4 on Watkins’ two free throws with 14:04 left in the first half.

The Razorbacks extended their lead to as many as 13 points twice in the first half, including a 38-25 halftime lead, but the Lady Demons hung around.

Arkansas helped considerably by committing 15 turnovers, the same number Northwestern State had.

Arkansas outscored the Lady Demons 19-0 off turnovers but the sloppiness also limited the Razorbacks’ number of scoring chances.

“We were frustrated as a team,” Bowen said. “It took us a while to get it together. We left a good taste in Coach’s mouth and in our mouths.”

Sports, Pages 21 on 12/22/2012