Peoples leads homecoming win at Cincinnati

CINCINNATI – Ohio native Kristin Peoples led the Lady Razorbacks with 18 points as the University of Arkansas picked up its 10th win of the season with a 66-54 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats in women’s collegiate basketball Sunday afternoon. “We’re 10-2 and I’m excited for this team,” UA head coach Susie Gardner said. “We’re excited to get home now and get ready for our next conference game.” Arkansas, 10-2, returns to Southeastern Conference play with Florida on Thursday at Bud Walton Arena. Cincinnati dropped to 5-7 with the loss. Cincinnati’s Toni Slaughter led all scorers with 19 points. Aside from Peoples’ 18, Arkansas had only one other player in double digits with 10 from Rochelle Vaughn. The last time Peoples saw Arkansas play at Fifth-Third Arena, she was a high school senior attending the Lady Razorbacks 2003 NCAA Tournament victory over Cincinnati. This afternoon, the former prep standout at Columbus, Ohio, metro Brookaven High was the star playing before a crowd of only 435 but was packed with Arkansas partisans, family and friends. Peoples’ three-pointer early in the second half put Arkansas ahead for good, her seven straight free throws provided the offensive push down the stretch to keep them ahead after a seven-point halftime deficit. The Westerville, Ohio, point guard’s steal and layup with six seconds left tied her season and career high for scoring at Arkansas. “It was the first time I had really been open, and I just felt like it was going to go in,” Peoples said of her crucial three-pointer. “It was a great pass from my teammate and I knocked it down.” For all its second-half power outscoring UC 44-25, Arkansas struggled offensively in the first half, trailing by as many as nine, but turned to its defense to carry the day. “We were sluggish in the first half and had a hard time scoring again,” Gardner said. “We played our scramble defense in the second half and it really disrupted Cincinnati” A season-high nine blocked shots and a complete turnaround of the turnover situation were the keys for Arkansas. After forcing only six turnovers from the Bearcats in the first half and struggling to control the ball itself, Arkansas’ defense kicked into high gear in the second by grinding out 18 Bearcat turnovers and holding UC to only 34% from the field. “We felt like when coach put us in the scramble that we were able to jump-start our offense with steals and transition baskets,” Peoples said. Another big turnaround was at the line where the Lady’Backs were 0-of-3 in the first half but 13-of-18 in the second, 11-of-16 belonging to Peoples. Her 11 made free throws is the most this year for any Lady’Back player. “She is very confident in her shot, and wants the ball at the end of the game,” Gardner said. “We’re trying to play a little more keepaway and make the other team chase us at the end of the game, but we hit the free throws in the end.” The Bearcats hung onto most of their halftime lead as the second half began until back-to-back three-pointers from Rochelle Vaughn brought Arkansas back to within one, 37-36, with 14 minutes to play. Two minutes later, free throws from Peoples and Bush gave Arkansas its first lead of the game since the opening moments of the game, 38-37. “We didn’t shoot well in our last game at Georgia, but we were more focused in practice the past two days,” Gardner said. “We showed them a lot of film and got them to think more about shot selection. Ro(chelle) shot the ball extremely well today.” Arkansas’ Vaughn and UC’s Slaughter traded layups before a Peoples’ three-pointer put the Lady’Backs ahead for good, 43-39. The Bearcats’ 15th turnover led to a Brittney Vaughn layup and Arkansas’ largest lead, 45-39, with 9:01 to play. The Lady’Backs’ increased defensive pressure cracked the Bearcat offense, and Slaughter’s fourth personal foul allowed Ruby Vaden to extend the lead to seven, 48-41. Arkansas appeared on its way with another steal, but the Lady’Backs suffered a pair of injuries within a minute. Kristin Moore went down in a heap with seven minutes left in the game and Vaughn exited with a twisted ankle about 50 seconds later. Moore did not return to the game and the extent of her injury will be evaluated when the team returns to Fayetteville. Clutch buckets from Allen and Bush maintained Arkansas’ seven-point lead down the stretch until Vaughn checked back into the game. Her jumper with just under four minutes left pushed the lead to eight, 53-45, and started a six-point run to take command of the game. Peoples’ padded the lead to 12 with a four free throws. Defense dominated the early portion of the game as neither team could establish a consistent offense, each shooting in the mid-30s from the field. Cincinnati had three runs that allowed them to take nine-point leads, but Arkansas prevented the Bearcats from reaching double digits in the first half thanks to timely buckets. “They came out with more emotion and they wanted it more and they really attacked Peoples,” Gardner said. “She seemed to struggle early.” “I think I was a little nervous at the beginning of the game,” Peoples added. “But having all those folks from home in the stands was a big boost in the second half.” Changing the starting lineup for only the second time this year, Gardner kept Sheree Thompson on the bench and opted for April Seggebruch at the wing guard slot. The senior responded with a three-pointer on the opening possession of the game as the Lady’Backs jumped out to a 5-2 lead. Cincinnati rallied with three consecutive layups following a series of Lady’Back offensive miscues to take control as Toni Slaughter’s layup with 16:41 made it 8-5. Neither team was able to establish its offense through the middle of the first half as the teams traded turnovers and steals for the next four and a half minutes with a lone free throw by UC’s Micah Harvey at 14:07 breaking up the defensive battle. The two schools combined for more turnovers (10) in the first 10 minutes of the game than field goals (9). A Melissa Hobbs layup at 12:19 ended the 9-0 run by Cinncinnati, and after a short jumper from Thompson, Hobbs tied the game for the Lady’Backs at 11-11 with 9:58 in the period. Back-to-back buckets from Emily Ogide and a three-pointer from Harvey began another Bearcat scoring walk as neither team was very successful with their respective offenses. Treasure Humphries had a pair of free throws in the middle of a three-minute defensive battle before a layup at 5:02 made it 20-13. A Thompson three-pointer ended the scoring drought for Arkansas at 4:49 and the Lady’Backs closed to six on Moore’s first bucket of the day. The Bearcats pushed back to a nine-point lead, but could not get to double digits by halftime as Allen’s layup with 33 seconds left sent the teams to the locker room with Cincinnati leading 29-22.