Ladybacks drops tight battle to South Carolina

FAYETTEVILLE, AR (U of A) - The University of Arkansas women's basketball team had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds at Bud Walton Arena, but dropped a tight battle to No. 14/18 South Carolina 43-40. Jhasmin Bowen led the Razorbacks with 13 points, and Calli Berna had a career high 10 rebounds. Arkansas had two three pointers fall just short in the last ten seconds, and fell to 14-6, and 2-5 in the SEC. South Carolina improves to 18-3 and 6-2 in conference play. 

Against the SEC leader in points allowed per game, Arkansas recorded some solid performances while battling a stout defense. Bowen scored 13 points, her highest total in conference play. Berna's 10 rebounds surpassed her previous career high of seven, and Quistelle Williams also recorded double digit rebounds for the fourth time this season.

"We got off to a good start," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "South Carolina is a very physical team. When you play them, you have to deal with that and attack their defense. We did that some. This team has a lot of grit. We had to battle. It was a tough loss against one of the best defensive teams."

The two teams came out of the gate hot, combining to hit 11 of their first 20 shots, as SC took a 16-9 lead. Erin Gatling got back in her three point groove, knocking down an early triple from the top of the arc. After South Carolina pushed their lead to seven, Bowen hit jumpers on consecutive possessions, and Berna added a layup for a 6-0 run that brought the Razorbacks within a basket at 21-20. The Gamecocks extended their lead to six, taking a 28-22 advantage into the locker room.

The Razorbacks shot 45.5 percent from the field in the opening stanza, with Bowen leading all scorers with eight points. UA held a 16-14 advantage on the boards, led by six rebounds by Berna.

The second frame got off to a slower start than the opening frame. The teams opened with only five makes in their first 20 shots, and South Carolina held a 36-28 lead at the second media timeout of the half.

The Razorbacks made a run out of the timeout, going on an 8-2 run to pull within 38-36 at the next timeout. Both defenses tightened up down the stretch, putting points at a premium. The Gamecocks displayed their strong defense and forced the Razorbacks to utilize the entire shot court, stifling them in the half court set.

Berna hit a huge three pointer with just under a minute remaining, the first basket in the game in a 2:30 stretch, and cut the Gamecock lead to just 43-40. The Razorbacks forced a Gamecock miss, and took the ball with 11.7 seconds left. Keira Peak's three point attempt was blocked, but Arkansas got a steal on South Carolina's inbound and set a play for the final 1.8 seconds. Williams got a look at a three pointer from the top of the key, but it was wide and the Razorbacks took a tough defeat.

"With three minutes left we started to fight back," Collen said. "We missed some layups and free throws down the stretch that was the difference. At the end, we wanted a three. We drew it up and got the look we wanted. The shot just didn't fall."

The Razorbacks struggled shooting the ball down the stretch, hitting just one of their last ten shots, and missed the opportunity to steal the game late. 

The Razorbacks hit the road next, traveling to Mississippi for their next two games. Arkansas faces Ole Miss at 7 p.m. on Thursday.