Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
UA thrills crowd with upset of Alabama
Braie Speed of Arkansas reacts to her performance on the bars against Missouri Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The No. 23 Arkansas Razorbacks put on their best performance of the season before a boisterous home crowd and capitalized on a couple of mistakes from No. 5 Alabama to win their first meet of the year Friday.
A big performance on the balance beam, led by junior Samantha Nelson and freshmen Jessica Yamzon, Hailey Garner and Michaela Burton, sparked the Razorbacks to a 195.825 to 195.325 upset of the Crimson Tide before a crowd of 5,456, third largest in school history, at Barnhill Arena.
It was Arkansas' (1-3, 1-2 SEC) third consecutive regular season meet victory over Alabama.
"I think that our team is getting better, and I was pleased that we're getting some momentum after that bad meet the last time here," Arkansas Coach Mark Cook said. "We had a great crowd tonight, and they brought a lot of energy in here. That definitely helps us."
Alabama (1-3, 1-2 SEC) led by 0.325 after two rotations, but ran into trouble on the floor exercise with major falls from Maddie Desch in the leadoff spot and Jenna Bresette, who both scored 9.075.
At the same time, Arkansas was rock steady on the beam, with Nelson, Yamzon, Garner and Burton posting 9.85s in four of the first five spots.
"Beam definitely carried us tonight," Cook said.
Alabama's Aja Sims won the beam with a 9.9, but the quartet of Arkansas' 9.85s led to an event victory with a season-high 49.125.
Yamzon won her first all-around with a 39.225, edging Alabama's Abby Armbrecht (39.075).
"It's incredible," Yamzon said. "I'm just speechless right now. I'm so happy."
The Razorbacks weren't as crisp on the floor exercise, but they were able to close out the victory with Heather Elswick hitting a 9.85 to finish second on the event behind Alabama's Kiana Winston (9.925). Nelson, Yamzon and Mia Bargiacchi all posted 9.8s to tie for third and carry Arkansas to the victory.
Alabama Coach Dana Duckworth gave some of her least-experienced gymnasts more work with a big meet looming on Sunday against No. 16 Auburn and paid for it with a road loss.
The Razorbacks will return to action at Auburn on Friday.
Sports on 01/28/2017
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