SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Junior C'eira Ricketts hit a three pointer as time ticked off the clock leading the University of Arkansas to a thrilling, 65-64, win over Missouri State in Springfield, Mo., Sunday advancing in the Women's National Invitational Tournament.
Arkansas (21-11) moves on to face the winner of the Oral Roberts/Tulane game that takes place Monday in Tulsa, Okla. Missouri State (24-11) ends their season with the loss.
"Obviously we are very excited to get out of here with the win," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "We have had an awful lot of close losses and it feels great to win this one."
The drama-filled contest came down to the wire with the Bears having a chance to win the game at the buzzer. Arkansas had the ball with a three-point lead after Ricketts hit a short jumper with 2:18 on the clock.
The Razorbacks made a couple of substitutions and put the ball in Ricketts hands again. She held the ball at the half court line taking time off the clock. Ricketts drove but missed the shot but sophomore Quistelle Williams grabbed a huge rebound and kicked the ball back out to Ricketts.
Again Ricketts took time off the clock making her move with eight seconds remaining on the shot clock. She drove into the top of the key, stepped back and buried a three as the shot clock expired giving Arkansas a 65-59 lead with 47 seconds remaining in the game.
Missouri State immediately drove the floor and hit a three with 33 seconds left on the clock closing the gap, 65-62. They fouled Arkansas on the inbound play but the Razorbacks, who had been stellar from the line, missed the bonus shot.
With time running out, Missouri State rebounded and drove the length of the floor getting a layup from Arkansas native Kendra Roberts pulling the Bears within one, 65-64.
Arkansas again inbounded the ball and the Bears fouled freshman Keira Peak. Peak missed the free throw and the Bears drove the floor. They put up a rushed shot, missed, rebounded and shot again but couldn't come up with the basket as time ran out.
"Sometimes basketball comes down to luck and we were probably more lucky than good on the last play," Collen said. "We didn't play our best basketball but we found a way to win and we are happy to advance."
Ricketts led Arkansas with 21 points and nine rebounds in the win. Watkins had 13 points and eight boards despite playing just 29 minutes with foul trouble. Junior Ashley Daniels and sophomore Williams each had eight for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas out-rebounded Missouri State, 48-35, scored 28 points in the paint and had 15 second chance points in the win.
The contest led up to its billing from the opening tip. The Razorbacks lead by as many as 11 early as fans may have thought they were watching a track meet. Arkansas won the closing minutes of the half with a 9-3 run.
The game was tied at 25 when Daniels was fouled. She hit both bonus shots giving the Razorbacks the lead. Ricketts drained a tough, contested three pointer with 1:59 left in the half and Arkansas got a put back from Williams as the lead continued to grow.
Missouri State managed a basket but the half closed with a long two from the right side off the hands of Watkins giving Arkansas the 34-28 led at the half.