Despite shooting just .338 from the floor and missing their last six free throw attempts of the game, the Arkansas Razorbacks pulled out a 65-64 victory over the Missouri State Lady Bears Sunday in second-round Women’s National Invitation Tournament action at JQH Arena. With the loss the Lady Bears close the 2010-11 season with a 24-11 record, marking their highest win total in six years.
Arkansas’ C’eira Ricketts tallied a game-high 21 points, including a clutch three-pointer from the top of the key that would prove to be the difference. The junior guard-who accounted for UA’s last six points of the contest-also pulled in a game-high nine rebounds and handed out three assists to pace the Razorbacks, who improved to 21-11 on the year.
Ricketts’ key triple handed Arkansas a 65-59 lead in the final minute, but the Lady Bears would mount a furious rally, getting a three from Casey Garrison with 33 ticks left on the clock, followed by a layup from former Razorback Kendra Roberts with just 16 seconds to play to set up a heart-stopping ending.
The Razorbacks, who converted 14 of their first 15 free throw attempts, would fail to connect from the line in the final 4:23 to give the Lady Bears an opening. Sarah Watkins misfired on the front end of a one-and-one following Garrison’s trey, and Keira Peak missed both of her tries with 10.5 seconds to play to give MSU one final chance to pull out the victory.
Christiana Shorter corralled Peak’s second miss and fired an outlet pass to Garrison, who dribbled through traffic to put up an off-balance runner from just above the block. Her shot, as well as Shorter’s putback attempt at the buzzer, would be off the mark, handing the Lady Bears their narrowest defeat in 38 postseason games since joining the Division I ranks.
The one-point margin for Arkansas matched its final advantage in second-chance points. The Razorbacks pulled down 22 offensive boards on the day, including the biggest one of the day by Quistelle Williams with 1:16 to play that set up Ricketts’ game-changing three in the final minute.
The Razorbacks, who also got 13 points from Watkins, hit on just 23-of-68 field goal attempts on the day, but pounded MSU on the boards by a 48-35 margin.
The breathtaking finish came after Arkansas scored the final six points of the first half to take a 34-28 lead into the break. Ricketts led all scorers with 11 points to help the Razorbacks overcome a 47.8 first-half shooting performance from the Lady Bears.
MSU battled back from an 11-point deficit thanks in large part to an 11-2 scoring run and a defense that held UA scoreless for over four-and-a-half minutes. Shorter led the Lady Bears with eight points, while Roberts gave her club a lift with a pair of clutch buckets to ultimately pull MSU even.
Arkansas jumped on top with a three-pointer from Watkins on the game’s first possession and hit their first three attempts from the field in all to build an 11-4 lead by the first media timeout.
The visitors would push their advantage to 21-10 on a Ricketts layup with 11:48 to play, but that’s when the MSU defense would go to work. UA would miss its next four shots and commit a pair of turnovers to allow the Lady Bears to draw to within 21-17 before an Ashley Daniels bucket would end the drought.
Following a Shorter basket at the seven-minute mark, Roberts made it a two-point affair with a 12-foot pull-up in the paint with just over five minutes to go. The senior guard then drained a three from the left wing with 2:54 to play to even up the score at 28-28.
But Ricketts knocked down a short jumper and drew a foul with just under two minutes left on the clock to start the Razorbacks late run. She would fail to convert the three-point play, but Williams grabbed the offensive rebound off the miss and stick a short jumper for a four-point UA lead. Watkins would close the first-half scoring with a basket in the paint with just 52 seconds to play.
MSU would claw its back in the early stages of the second half, mounting an 11-3 run over a two-minute, 28-second stretch to take its only lead of the game. Karly Buer drilled a pair of threes and Roberts drove the lane for a layup to cap the spurt and hand the Lady Bears a 43-41 advantage with 13:32 to play.
UA came back with a 14-2 run over the ensuing four-and-a-half minutes to reclaim the lead. MSU would trail, 57-49 with just under six minutes to play when it would benefit from, in-effect, a five-point play. Shorter scored off an offensive rebound and drew a foul, and Williams was whistled for a technical foul in the process. Garrison sank the two free throws and Shorter completed the three-point play to pull the Lady Bears to within three once again.
From there, the two clubs traded buckets and Whitney Edie sank one of two free throw attempts to make it a two-point game, before Ricketts would put the Razorbacks on her shoulders down the stretch.
Shorter led MSU with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Edie added 14 points and a team-high eight boards. Roberts and Garrison also finished in double figures with 10 points apiece.