Balanced attack lifts Arkansas in season opener 77-38
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Five Razorbacks posted double-digit in the University of Arkansas’ 77-38 victory over the University of Louisiana at Monroe in Saturday’s season opener at Bud Walton Arena. Playing in the first game of her Razorback career, freshman Ceira Ricketts scored a game-high 14 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.The senior duo of Ayana Brereton and Whitney Jones chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Charity Ford and Lyndsay Harris each had 10 points against ULM.“This was a good win,” head coach Tom Collen said. “I was a little nervous before this game because we didn’t look very good in the exhibition. We’ve got a lot of work still to do on offense, but our defense was fantastic today.“This is a team that on any given night, any different player can step up and lead us on offense. It makes us very hard to guard.”Behind a pressure defense, Arkansas totaled eight blocks and 14 steals against the Warhawks and limited the visiting team to 22.7 percent shooting from the field, the first time the Razorbacks have held an opponent under 25 percent since a 2006 victory over Memphis.
“In the exhibition, we didn’t go very hard on defense,” Jones said. “We talked about trying to keep our opponents under 60 points this year and we came out focused to try and meet that goal”
Arkansas outscored ULM, 47-19, in the second half and ended the game on a 20-8 run. Ricketts scored 10 of her game total in the second half. Ford knocked in eight of her point total during the second half of play.
The defensive performance held ULM without a double-digit scorer. The Warhawks’ Sumar Leslie led the visitors with eight points. The 39-point difference is the largest for Collen as the Razorback head coach and the biggest for Arkansas since that 2006 contest with Memphis. ULM’s 38 points represents its lowest point total during its series with Arkansas.
“They’re an improved team over where they were last year,” ULM head coach Mona Martin said. “We’re very young and we shot the ball poorly but I don’t want to take away from Arkansas because their defense had a lot to do with that.”
Arkansas forced 24 turnovers and transitioned those opportunities into 23 points. The Razorbacks outscored their opponents on the fast break, 14-2.
“Associate head coach Tim Eatman worked very hard to get our pressure in place,” Collen said. “It will be better this year but it was pretty darn good today.”
Brereton converted a steal into a fast-break layup 1:20 into the game to score Arkansas’ first points of the 2008-09 season. The Razorbacks jumped out to a 10-5 lead on a three-point basket by Shanita Arnold with 16:06 remaining in the first half.
Despite the quick start, Arkansas struggled from the field during the first 20 minutes of play, connecting on just 12 of its 33 first-half shot attempts. The home team kept the Warhawks at bay with a stingy defense that limited ULM to 24.2 percent shooting in the first half.
“We came out playing hard and we wanted to set the tempo early,” Arnold said. She finished the game with seven points, seven assists and five rebounds.
A jumper by Jones put Arkansas ahead by ten, 22-12, with 7:53 remaining in the opening half. After a pair of free throws by Ricketts extended the Razorback lead to 12, the visitors responded with a surge to cut their deficit to seven. Arkansas led 26-19 with 1:44 to play in the first half.
Jones ended an Arkansas scoring drought with a layup as the clock ticked under one minute. The Razorbacks went scoreless for 3:32 before the driving basket by Jones. Arnold pushed the lead back into double digits for Arkansas with a jumper just before the halftime buzzer sounded.
The Razorbacks went into the locker room with a 30-19 advantage.
Arkansas returns to action Nov. 19 with a home contest against High Point. Tip off is slated for a 7 p.m. start at Bud Walton Arena. For more information and continued coverage, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.