TOP 25/SEC WOMEN:

Arkansas women left at a loss again

By: MARTY COOK SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Kentucky defender Jennifer O'Neill knocks the ball away from Arkansas' Erin Gatling during the first half of Thursday night's game against the Wildcats at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Kentucky defender Jennifer O'Neill knocks the ball away from Arkansas' Erin Gatling during the first half of Thursday night's game against the Wildcats at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

— Another close loss at home to a ranked team led to another somber post game news conference.

The Arkansas women’s team, trying to claw its way into postseason consideration, let an eight-point lead slip away and lost 80-74 in overtime to No. 10 Kentucky in front of 1,935 fans Thursday at Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks (15-8, 3-7 SEC) have lost three consecutive home games to Georgia, South Carolina and now Kentucky - all top-15 teams - by a combined 12 points.

“It’s a tough one,” Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said. “It’s getting tougher to come in here after these home games against top teams and we let them slip away.”

Right up to the overtime period, it looked like Arkansas had its upset, one perhaps that would re-energize the season and raise the Razorbacks’ profile for a possible NCAA Tournament berth. The Razorbacks led almost the entire game, including by as much as 11 points in the first half, and jumped back ahead by eight with 6:51 left in the game.

The Wildcats had to abandon their frenetic full-court press defense and switched to a 2-3 trapping half-court zone. Collen took solace that his team made Kentucky quit its bread-and-butter defense, but the change sparked the Wildcats’ comeback.

The Razorbacks struggled to get good looks down the stretch, scoring just six points in the last six minutes. Then, after Kentucky tied it at 64 with 25.6 seconds left, the Razorbacks had consecutive shots blocked by Brittany Henderson.

“They had us on the ropes,” Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “This is a significant win for us.”

In the five-minute overtime, Kentucky forced two shot-clock violations and made 10 of 13 free throws to take the victory.

Arkansas forward Sarah Watkins, who had a game-high 25, said the Wildcats’ defensive switch made a big difference, along with their refusal to submit when Arkansas was building its lead.

“They did the job,” Watkins said. “You have to give them credit for being gritty.”

Kentucky was led by standout guard A’dia Mathies, who finished with 15 points but made all the plays the Wildcats needed when her team needed them. Mathies tied the game at 64 when, after badly missing a three-point attempt, she reclaimed the ball and made a driving layup through the Arkansas defense.

“She made some big plays,” Mitchell said.

They were the type of plays the Razorbacks couldn’t make. Collen said his team’s weakness is an inability to create shots off the dribble, something that showed when freshman guard Dominique Wilson and sophomore guard Calli Berna struggled to get quality looks in the face of Kentucky’s defense at the end of regulation.

“We couldn’t make a play at the end of the game to put them away,” Collen said.

Kentucky scored the game’s first basket on a three pointer by Kastine Evans, but the Razorbacks scored the next seven points. The Razorbacks were helped immensely by Kentucky turnovers during their early run as the Wildcats committed five turnovers in the first four minutes.

NO. 9 GEORGIA 61, AUBURN 58

ATLANTA - Jasmine Hassell scored15 points and Georgia overcame its second-half struggles to edge Auburn, giving the Tigers their seventh consecutive loss.

The Lady Bulldogs (20-3, 8-2 SEC), coming off a victory at No. 8 Kentucky on Sunday, led 34-22 at halftime. Georgia made only 2 of 16 shots from the field in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Auburn (13-10, 2-8) made only 3 of 15 free throws, missing each of its five attempts in the final three minutes.

NO. 12 TENNESSEE 64, LSU 62

BATON ROUGE - Bashaara Graves made a late steal and soon after scored inside with a second left to help No. 12 Tennessee narrowly avert a second consecutive upset.

Coming off a stunning 80-63 loss at Missouri, Tennessee (18-5, 9-1 SEC) trailed 62-59 after Theresa Plaisance’s baseline jumper put LSU (13-10, 4-6) in position to give Coach Nikki Caldwell her first victory over her alma mater in four tries.

Graves finished with 17 points, while Meighan Simmons led Tennessee with 18.

Plaisance had 20 points and nine rebounds for LSU.

NO. 15 SOUTH CAROLINA 65, ALABAMA 53

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Aleighsa Welch and Ashley Bruner led South Carolina to a wire-to-wire victory over Alabama, giving the Gamecocks their second consecutive 20-victory season and 12th in school history.

Welch scored 16 points with 10 rebounds while Bruner had 15 points and 11 rebounds for South Carolina (20-3).

Daisha Simmons’ 18 points paced the Crimson Tide (12-11, 2-8).

THURSDAY’S GAMES

Kentucky 80, Arkansas 74, OT Georgia 61, Auburn 58 South Carolina 65, Alabama 53 Tennessee 64, LSU 62

Sports, Pages 22 on 02/08/2013

Discussion

Submit