FAYETTEVILLE, AR (U of A)
– Another strong defensive performance propelled the University of Arkansas women's basketball to its third straight Southeastern Conference win Monday night. In front of a national television audience at Bud Walton Arena, the Razorbacks jumped out to a sizeable lead and then held on in the final moments to defeat No. 24/21 Georgia, 54-48.
Arkansas moves its record to 14-8 and 4-6 in conference play. Georgia loses its fourth game in a row and falls to 17-7 and 5-6 in SEC.
Sophomore Jessica Jackson led Arkansas with 15 points, including five key free throws in the final 26 seconds to ice the win.
Defense was the story of the night for the Razorbacks, holding Georgia to 33 percent shooting and forcing 20 turnovers. Arkansas held the Bulldogs to 48 points, the third straight SEC opponent the Razorback defense has kept below the 50-point plateau. It is the first time in program history for Arkansas to allow less than 50 points to three straight SEC foes.
The Razorbacks never trailed in the game and led by as many as 18 points in the first half. Arkansas jumped out to an early 10-0 lead as Georgia was held off the scoreboard for the game's initial 6:41 and forced into six turnovers. Back-to-back baskets by junior Melissa Wolff at the five-minute mark contributed to Arkansas' 24-6 lead, its largest of the game. Ten of Jackson's 15 points came in the first half as Arkansas shot 50 percent in the opening frame and led 30-16.
The Bulldogs cut into the lead at multiple points in the second half, but the Razorbacks were able to answer. The lead was trimmed to single digits with 14 minutes left, but seniors Calli Berna and Jhasmin Bowen combined for a quick 6-0 run to push the lead back up to 15.
Arkansas held a 49-38 lead with 7:08 to play, but Georgia again would make a run cutting it down to 49-45 with 39 ticks left. On a drive to the basket, Jackson was fouled but could not convert her two free throws.
Georgia answered with a banked three-ball from Erika Ford with 29 seconds left, leaving Arkansas clinging to a one-point lead. Jackson was fouled again, and this time calmly knocked down a pair of free throws with 26 seconds to help Arkansas to a three-point edge. On the ensuing possession, Jackson blocked two potential game-tying three point attempts. Following the blocks, Georgia head coach Andy Landers was ejected after a double-technical foul. Arkansas was awarded four free throws and Jackson made three of them to salt the game away.
In addition to Jackson, Arkansas' two seniors combined for 24 points as Calli Berna matched a season-high with 13 points and Jhasmin Bowen chipped in 11. Berna filled up the stat sheet, also recording seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Junior Melissa Wolff was good for eight points and eight rebounds.
Merritt Hempe scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds to pace the Bulldogs.
Monday's win marks the first time Arkansas has defeated multiple ranked opponents in the same season since 2011-12. The Razorbacks previously defeated No. 17/16 Iowa Nov. 28, 2014.
Arkansas is back in action Thursday evening, traveling to College Station, Texas, to play No. 15/13 Texas A&M. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.