UA women’s 2nd-half rally falls short

Published: Friday, February 21, 2014
Arkansas senior Keira Peak puts a towel to her bloody lip in the first half against Vanderbilt Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Peak fell to the court while driving to the basket scoring and getting the foul.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Arkansas senior Keira Peak puts a towel to her bloody lip in the first half against Vanderbilt Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Peak fell to the court while driving to the basket scoring and getting the foul.

FAYETTEVILLE - Two game-tying shots rimmed out in the final seconds as the Arkansas women’s basketball team fell short in a second-half comeback Thursday night.

The Razorbacks rallied from a 10-point deficit and had two chances to tie the game in the final 11 seconds, but freshmen Jessica Jackson and McKenzie Adams missed attempts in the lane and No. 25 Vanderbilt held on for a 56-50 victory in front of an announced crowd of 1,016 at Walton Arena.

Coming out of a timeout trailing 52-50 with 23 seconds left, the Razorbacks (17-9, 4-9 SEC) got the ball to Jackson on the left wing. Heavily defended, she drove the baseline and missed a layup with 11 seconds remaining. Jackson got the rebound and found fellow freshman McKenzie Adams, who missed an off-balance jumper with :08 left.

Vanderbilt (18-8, 7-6) rebounded Adams’ miss and sealed the victory with two Christina Foggie free throws with just over two seconds left.

“Usually when we run that play we have [Jackson] with a three in the corner,” Razorbacks Coach Tom Collen said of the play drawn up for Jackson. “But we talked about if she didn’t have it to attack the basket and try to get to the free throw line.

“She did all that, she just missed the shot.”

The final dramatics completed a second half where Vanderbilt came out of the locker room and went on a 13-2 to run to erase a one-point halftime deficit and grab the game’s momentum, leading 38-28 with 14:32 remaining.

“I think they just came out there and kind of hit us in the face,” said Adams, who had 10 points. “They are a good team and we just can’t have any letdowns and I think we did for a second. Getting in a hole, it gets us down and it’s hard to get back. We can’t do that.”

Ten of Vanderbilt’s points in the run came in the lane, seven from Morgan Batey, who finished with 18.

“Late in the shot clock they are just going to try to ram it at you,” Collen said of the Commodores. “That’s where they had their most success, with the Batey kid. She stayed in attack mode the whole time. That’s where we got beat, and that’s hard, because that’s one of the things we talked about in the locker room and in the scouting report that you can guard, and guard and guard and then at the end they are going to give the ball to the post and they’re going to try to ram it at you and you’ve got to try to stop that as well.

“That’s what we never really stopped all night long.

The Razorbacks missed six of their first seven shots in the opening six minutes of the second half and trailed 40-30 with 13:17 remaining before beginning to chip away.

Jackson, who led the Razorbacks with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, scored nine points in the final 6:43 of the game, including a pair of free throws with 34.6 seconds left that pulled Arkansas within 52-50.

“I think [the Razorbacks] do a really good job defensively,” Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb said. “They take a lot away. They had a week to prepare and really took away a lot out of our sets. They made us make a different pass than we were used to making. I think McKenzie Adams stepped up and made some big shots during that stretch.

“But overall their defense is really solid and keeps them in every game and is going to. They are smart defenders. They have a good game plan and they have been coached well and they are smart.”

It was a tough loss for Arkansas, still hoping for an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament, with road games against No. 19 LSU and No. 16 Texas A&M up next before closing out the regular season at home against Missouri on March 2.

“I don’t think there are any questions the kids and the staff are disappointed,” Collen said. “We felt all along that if we got to 7-9 in conference play and went to the SEC Tournament and made a showing we would have a chance because I think our RPI would rise and we still have the opportunity to do it.

“I think it’s going to be really a tough chore for this team, after this loss, to go down and beat LSU, but the bottom line is the opportunity to do it is there and we’ve gone down there and done it before. We are not ready to say we are done yet. Just keep fighting.

Senior Keira Peak added 11 for the Razorbacks, seven coming in the first half. Neither team led by more than four points in a fast-paced first half. Vanderbilt’s biggest lead was 11-8 with 13:20 left and the Razorbacks’ largest margin was 21-17 with 5:48 left.

Arkansas scored 10 points off nine Vanderbilt turnovers in the first half to overcome a 20-12 scoring disadvantage in the lane.

In other games involving SEC women’s teams:

Aleighsa Welch had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Khadijah Sessions added 18 points as No. 4 South Carolina routed No. 15 Kentucky 81-58 in Lexington, Ky., to set a school record for regular-season victories. ... Meighan Simmons scored 26 points to continue her mastery of Auburn as No. 10 Tennessee beat the Tigers 93-63 Knoxville, Tenn., for the Lady Vols’ seventh victory in their last eight games. Simmons sparked an early 19-0 run and had 25 points in the game’s first 21 minutes, 42 seconds before cooling off down the stretch. ... Courtney Williams scored 26 points and Karla Gilbert added 21 with 10 rebounds to help No. 16 Texas A&M defeat Mississippi 73-61 in Oxford, Miss. ... Erika Ford had 20 points as Georgia jumped to a big lead early and repelled a late challenge to defeat No. 19 LSU 71-67 in Athens, Ga. Theresa Plaisance had 29 points and eight rebounds to lead LSU.

Sports, Pages 23 on 02/21/2014