Arkansas pushes Missouri off line

Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Arkansas' Dominique Wilson tries to get past the Missouri defenders in the second half of Sunday afternoon's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas' Dominique Wilson tries to get past the Missouri defenders in the second half of Sunday afternoon's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

— A half of record-setting defense was all the Arkansas women’s basketball team needed Sunday against Missouri.

The Razorbacks held the Tigers, one of the nation’s top three-point shooting teams, to 11 first-half points and cruised to a 61-40 victory in front of 2,553 at Walton Arena.

It was the fewest points Arkansas has allowed in the first half of an SEC game, and 40 was the fewest points allowed to an SEC opponent all season.

Missouri, which entered the game ranked first in the SEC and No. 6 nationally in three-pointers made per game at 8.6, connected on 2 of 16. The Tigers (15-11, 4-8) shot 28 percent from the field.

“We definitely accomplished what we set out to do,” Arkansas senior post Sarah Watkins said.

Arkansas (17-8, 5-7) forced 10 first-half turnovers, held Missouri to 5 of 27 shooting, and used a 31-7 run to build the first-half cushion.

“We really wanted to get after them and force them off the three-point line,” said Watkins, who finished with 12 points. “We did a great job of forcing them to look for the drive and that’s not really their game. We stayed disciplined in our gaps and got some critical stops. Our defense was really tight in the first half.”

Arkansas’ offense came out firing.

Freshman guard Dominique Wilson was 7 of 7 from the field and scored 14 of her game-high 18 points in the first half including 3 of 3 from three-point range. She helped ignite the Razorbacks’ early run, scoring six as Arkansas outscored Missouri 15-0.

It was the third consecutive game Wilson has scored at least 17 points, the best streak from an Arkansas newcomer since 2006.

“I really wanted to pass the ball around, help keep the offense moving,” Wilson said. “When I did that they left me wide open and I was able to knock some shots down.”

Missouri put together a handful of mini runs in a sloppy second half that saw 27 fouls called. The Tigers pulled within 35-17 with 16:17 left in the game and within 52-36 late.

The Razorbacks finished with 16 turnovers, 13 coming in the second half, and scored 13 of their final 15 points from the free-throw line in the final eight minutes.

“We played great defensively, even in the second half if the whistle hadn’t blown so often,” Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said. “We did what we wanted to do. We guarded the arc just fine and our kids did a great job of not giving them very many open looks. The ones they did get were always challenged.”

The victory gave the Razorbacks a sweep of their season series with Missouri. Arkansas used another hot shooting night and beat the Tigers 58-50 in Columbia, Mo., on Jan. 24.

“They’re going to be our new natural rivalry and to take two against them in the first year I think kind of sets the tone for us hopefully in future years,” Collen said. “It’s a good win for us.”

Bri Kulas scored 13 second half points to lead Missouri. Morgan Eye, who entered the game leading the Tigers in scoring and points-per game, was held to one three pointer.

“I’m disappointed,” Missouri Coach Robin Pingeton said. “What we do in practice hasn’t been carrying over the last couple of games. I think it would be great if we could start wearing our practice jerseys to the next game.

“Give Arkansas credit. I thought they guarded us hard. They switched a lot of screens and we didn’t take advantage of it. We also had some open looks we didn’t knock down.”

Sports, Pages 17 on 02/18/2013