Arkansas ladybacks win first game ever in Knoxville

After getting beat at home by Florida by 30 points (the worst ever loss at Bud Walton) and then getting beat by Alabama at Bud Walton, it appears we have nothing to cheer about at Arkansas. However, hold the presses. The Arkansas ladybacks beat Tennessee for the first time ever in basketball last night.

The Ladybacks actually trail Kentuck (12-3) and Tennessee (11-4) and are in third place in the standings. I was mad at them a few years ago for letting our coach Gary Blair go to Texas A&M and not giving him a raise and then the Aggies won the national championship last year and we had stunk it up since then.

Hog-tied: Arkansas women win in Knoxville for first time, 72-71

Arkansas snaps 18-game skid to Lady Vols

By Dan Fleser

Friday, February 24, 2012

Arkansas couldn’t make a shot in its first meeting with Tennessee.

The Razorbacks summoned their best shot for the rematch Thursday night and scored a dramatic breakthrough victory at the Lady Vols’ expense.

A pair of free throws by Lyndsay Harris with 6.2 seconds left in overtime turned out to be the difference in a 72-71 SEC women’s basketball victory before a stunned crowd of 13,337 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The victory was the first for the Razorbacks (21-6, 10-5 SEC) in Knoxville and their first over UT since 1996. The achievement was magnified by their 69-38 loss at home to Tennessee on Jan. 8, during which the Razorbacks made just 10 field goals and shot an unsightly 18.2 percent from the floor.

No. 10 Tennessee (20-8, 11-4), meanwhile, suffered a third home loss in a season for the first time in program history.

“The credit goes to the players,” Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. “They’re the ones who prepared. They’re the ones who believed in themselves.”

Harris scored a game high 20 points. Sarah Watkins added 18. Guard C’eira Ricketts stuffed her stat line with 16 points, nine assists and eight turnovers.

The anguish fell to Tennessee’s players afterward. The loss, coupled with Kentucky’s 53-50 victory over South Carolina, dropped UT into second place in the conference standings with just Sunday’s home game against Florida remaining.

A distraught Shekinna Stricklen literally had to be picked up off the court by teammate Kamiko Williams. Fellow senior Vicki Baugh walked Stricklen off the court.

Despite scoring a team-high 17 points, Stricklen missed four free throws in overtime, including two attempts with 10 seconds left that could’ve given Tennessee the lead.

“I honestly wanted the ball at the end,” Stricklen said. “You just have to step up. I didn’t make the free throws at the end.”

Even a free throw that went in was a source of disappointment. Freshman Ariel Massengale tried to miss her final attempt with three seconds left and Tennessee trailing by two points. Instead of creating a rebound chance, her shot went in and UT essentially had no chance thereafter.

“I was trying to shoot it off to the right so Glory (Johnson) could get it and put it back in,” Massengale said.

As much as the ending hurt, the Lady Vols’ pointed to the game’s beginning as their downfall. Johnson described UT’s first-half play as “awful.”

Johnson and Stricklen, Tennessee’s two top scorers, had zero points at the break. Johnson was limited to eight first-half minutes by foul trouble.

Scoring wasn’t a problem for Arkansas. Harris got them started with 11 of her points and three of the Razorbacks eight 3 pointers in the first half, enabling them to open a 31-26 lead.

“It definitely helped that we came out scoring early and got our confidence up,” Harris said.

It helped even more that Arkansas was scoring from long range. Tennessee couldn’t sit back in a zone defense as it had the majority of the past three games.

While the Lady Vols used multiple alignments to help force 21 Arkansas turnovers, they also opened up driving lanes for Ricketts with their strategy and the senior guard took advantage.

“We’ve always believed with the ball in her hands something good is going to happen,” Collen said.

With the ball in her hands, Arkansas came back from a four-point deficit in the final 1 minute, five seconds of regulation. Her driving basket cut the deficit to two. Then after a UT miss, Ricketts pushed the ball up the court and threaded a pass through scrambling Lady Vols defenders to Watkins for a tying layup with eight seconds left.

“We’ve preached defense and defending penetration,” UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said, “and we just can’t get it right.”

Dan Fleser may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://twitter.com/FleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser.

Photos by Saul Young/News Sentinel
Tennessee's Kamiko Williams comforts Shekinna Stricklen after the Lady Vols' 72-71 loss to Arkansas at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday as the Razorbacks celebrate in the background.

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2012 // Buy this photo

Photos by Saul Young/News Sentinel Tennessee’s Kamiko Williams comforts Shekinna Stricklen after the Lady Vols’ 72-71 loss to Arkansas at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday as the Razorbacks celebrate in the background.

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