SEC WOMEN:

Arkansas right on target, outshoots, outscores Bama

By: RICK HARVEY SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Friday, February 14, 2014
Arkansas freshman Kelsey Brooks (15) drives to the basket as Alabama senior Shafontaye Myers defends during the first half of play Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas freshman Kelsey Brooks (15) drives to the basket as Alabama senior Shafontaye Myers defends during the first half of play Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

The Arkansas women’s basketball team returned to its nonconference ways Thursday night.

The Razorbacks made 10 three-pointers and forced 25 turnovers as it defeated Alabama 75-55 in front of an estimated crowd of 562 at Walton Arena.

It was the most points Arkansas has scored and its biggest margin of victory since beating Mississippi Valley State 100-54 to close out nonconference play on Dec. 28.

The Razorbacks had won their first three SEC games by an average of four points.

“We had so much energy tonight,” said freshman Jessica Jackson, who finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocked shots. “We played more as a team, we were hitting shots, and it really carried over to our defense.”

Arkansas (17-8, 4-8 SEC), which scored 26 points off Alabama turnovers, controlled the game from the start and finished shooting 48.1 percent from the field.

Freshman Kelsey Brooks scored a career-high 20 points, which included hitting 3 of 3 from behind the three-point line. Classmate McKenzie Adams scored 11 points, junior Jhasmin Bowen had 10 and junior Calli Berna added 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Nine players scored for the Razorbacks.

“It’s starting to become evident that when we make shots and score, then we are pretty good because we are pretty solid defensively,” Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said. “It’s definitely becoming more apparent that the players who are going to make those shots are the three freshmen. It’s a lot to ask of freshmen, but when they score we seem to have a fighting chance against almost anybody.”

The Crimson Tide (11-13, 4-7) were 7 of 17 from three-point range and outrebounded Arkansas 38-28, but Alabama shot 34 percent and had multiple scoring droughts that turned into big runs by the Razorbacks.

“I’m not sure [Arkansas’ defense] was anything we haven’t seen in SEC play,” said Alabama Coach Kristy Curry, who spent the previous seven seasons at Texas Tech. “It was just an atrocious lack of focus and energy on our part.

“Arkansas really fed off one another and gave each other a lot of confidence. I thought Kelsey Brooks came off the bench and gave tremendous energy and willed them with her hustle and defense tonight. She really sparked them.”

Brooks finished 7 of 12 from the field with 2 assists and 5 steals.

“We have just been sick of losing,” Brooks said. “We had a different mentality tonight. The players came in expecting to win. We were able to get great ball movement tonight, which led to a lot of open shots.”

The victory kept Arkansas’ postseason hopes alive, Collen said.

“We felt that if we stepped up to another level, and if can win the majority of our remaining games down the stretch, then we have a fighting chance to get into the NCAA Tournament,” he said.

Arkansas led by as many as 14 in a first half that saw it hit 5 of 8 from behind the three-point line, all by different players.

The Razorbacks opened the game with a 12-3 run and led 25-11 with 7:39 left in the first half. After Alabama used three-pointers by Khadijah Carter and Shafontaye Myers to pull within 25-19, the Razorbacks closed out the half with a 12-7 run and led 37-26 at halftime. But Arkansas didn’t have a field goal in the final 3:17 of the half.

The Razorbacks shot 46.2 percent in the first half and scored 17 points off 15 turnovers by the Crimson Tide.

The Razorbacks are off until Thursday when they host Vanderbilt, the first of two remaining regular-season home games.

SOUTHLAND TEXAS A&M-CC 45, CENTRAL ARKANSAS 42

Micah Rice’s last-second heave from half-court bounced off the front of the rim as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (13-11, 6-7) held on Thursday night against Southland Conference-leading UCA (15-8, 9-3) at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Courtney Duever appeared to give the Sugar Bears a lead with 17 seconds to go, but her basket was waved off because of a charging call and left the game tied at 42-42. The Islanders reclaimed the lead on the ensuing possession when Jasmine Shaw nailed a three-pointer with 2 seconds remaining.

Following a timeout, the Sugar Bears got the ball to Rice for a last-second attempt to tie, which she missed, but a replay review by officials showed that the clock had started early. Officials put 1.8 seconds back on the clock, giving UCA one more shot to force overtime, but Rice missed from half-court.

Duever led the Sugar Bears with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Sports, Pages 23 on 02/14/2014

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