Arkansas rally comes up short against Canadian national champions

. BURNABY, British Columbia – Senior Lauren Ervin scored 14 of her 19 in the second half as the University of Arkansas rallied but could not overtake the defending Canadian national champion Simon Fraser, 72-71.

Arkansas earns a split for its 2007 Canadian tour with the top teams in the country.

“We’ll be a couple of weeks of practice and two good games ahead of most of the teams in the U.S.,” Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. “We came out a little flat early, but we were more aggressive in the second half.”

Robyn Buna led all scorers with 25 for Simon Fraser who went 2-0 against NCAA competition over the Labor Day weekend.

The Lady’Backs trailed by as many as 18, but cut the SFU lead to one in the final seconds.

“We did a great job of getting the chance, but there was some confusion at the end,” Collen said. “I was very happy with the way we came back in the second half, and we showed a lot of fight.”

Arkansas had three players in double digits with Sarah Pfeifer adding 16 off the bench and 11 from Whitney Jones.

It was a clutch baseline drive from Pfeifer that cut the SFU lead to two, 70-68, with 1:37 left to play. Pfeifer feed the ball down low to Jones, who drew Courtney Gerwing’s fifth foul for a three-point play and a one-point game, 72-71.

The Lady’Backs earned a crucial turnover in the last seconds, and headed up the floor with the chance to regain its first lead since the first quarter.

The game ended with some controversy as Arkansas tried to call time out in the last 30 seconds to set the offense.

Arkansas got the break it wanted, with two missed free throws from SFU. Shanita Arnold got the rebound and dribbled the length of the floor only to be called for a charge with less than a second to play.

“The glaring thing in the first half was our turnovers and our lack of free throws,” Collen said. “We did a better job of getting to the line in the second half.”

For the game, Arkansas was whistled for 27 fouls to 17 for SFU. Fraser went to the line 28 times, hitting 16 free throws which was more than Arkansas shot, 14.

Ervin got in quick foul trouble, and played only four minutes in the first 20. Arkansas fought to get back into the game after intermission behind inside play from Ervin and Jones. Jones opened with a three-point play, then a three-pointer and a three-point play from Ervin brought Arkansas back within 10, 43-33.

SFU recovered and stretched out its lead to 18 with three-point shooting, 55-37.

The closing minutes of the third quarter Arkansas came roaring back with an 11-0 run fueled by back-to-back driving jumpers by Pfeifer and a deep three-pointer by Shanita Arnold.

Fouls became the big factor in the final quarter as both team’s key inside players racked up four fouls.

Ervin and Pfeifer turned up the offense to bring the Lady’Backs to within four, 63-59, but a three-pointer by Gerwing stopped the Arkansas comeback with 5:04 to play.

The teams traded points for the next three minutes before Ervin fouled out of the game with 2:38 to play.

Gerwing finished with 20 points for SFU with Kate Hole adding 11.

Both teams opened on fire, with Arkansas hitting 50% from the field and leading most of the opening quarter. SFU rallied to tie the game at 16-16 heading into the second, and defense took over.

The teams combined for five field goals in the first five minutes of the second, but SFU broke out of the defensive struggle to run the Lady’Backs 15-2 to close the first half.

Robyn Buna led the run with five unanswered points, and finished the half with 14 points to lead all players before halftime.

Arkansas hit only 3-of-14 in the second quarter while SFU started draining the three-pointers. Fraser hit six first-half treys for its 36-24 halftime lead.