Razorbacks fall short against No. 10 Lady Vols

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Freshman guard Ceira Ricketts tied her career high and scored a game-high 22 points for the Arkansas Razorback women’s basketball team in a hard-fought, 76-67 loss to No.10 Tennessee Thursday night at Walton Arena. It is the 15th time this season Ricketts has scored in double figures, and the second time she has eclipsed 20 points.

Arkansas (11-8, 0-4 SEC) led with just over 6 minutes to play in the game, but couldn’t hold on, as Tennessee ended on a 19-7 run.

Arkansas finished with three players in double figures, as Ashley McCray scored a career-high 12 points and Shanita Arnold added 11.

“I thought we had a chance to beat them,” Razorback head coach Tom Collen said. “Down the stretch they jumped in the zone and we didn’t execute. We handled it well for stretches, but couldn’t seem to get it done down the stretch.”

Tennessee (15-3, 4-1) ended the game with three players in double figures and scored nearly half of its points in the paint, outscoring Arkansas 34-28 in that category. Angie Bjorklund led the Lady Vols in scoring with 18.

“Arkansas outplayed us in the first half,” Tennessee head coach Pat Summit said. “We have yet to be a 40-minute team this season. We were fortunate to win this game. The only reason we did was because of our play in the second half. This Arkansas team is getting better. Looking at them on tape, I knew it was going to be a battle.”

Arkansas struggled from the field early, hitting only one of their first seven shots. The lone bucket came on a runner in the lane off the hand on Ricketts. Rickets scored the first six points of the game for the Razorbacks, and ended the half with a game-high 12.

The Hogs also turned the ball over six times in the first eight minutes, as Tennessee jumped out to a lead, 10-2. Arkansas came storming back as Arnold and Lyndsay Harris both made buckets during a 9-2 run that cut the lead to a point, 12-11.

After the Lady Vols extended their lead to six, 17-11, a pair of Tennessee turnovers led to an Ashley McCray field goal and a pair of Ricketts free throws that cut the lead back to two, 17-15.

The two teams combined for 19 turnovers in the first half.

The Lady Vols were held scoreless for almost four minutes until ending their scoring drought at the 7:12 mark. Arkansas would then hit its last four shots of the half, but were ultimately kept alive by outstanding free throw shooting (12-13).

Rickets would cut the lead to one with 1:51 to play, and on the ensuing possession, Arkansas grabbed its first lead, 29-28, by way of a Brittany Richardson layup.

Tennessee would then tie as Alex Fuller made the back end of two free throw attempts with 51 seconds to play. Tennessee shot 7-11 from the line in the first half.

Tennessee’s Sydney Smallbone grabbed her first points of the contest with a three-point basket with 27 seconds remaining to put the Lady Vols back on top, 32-29.

Arnold answered the bell with a triple of her own with 3 seconds left, and the two teams made their way to the locker rooms tied at 32.

“We didn’t get bigheaded,” said Collen. “Tennessee always finds a way to win down the stretch. They expect to win and didn’t panic they just came out and kept playing.”

The Lady Vols opened the scoring in the second half on a basket by Shekinna Stricklin, but two three-point baskets by Arnold quickly helped Arkansas to their biggest lead of the game, 40-36, with 17 minutes to play.

Five of Arkansas’ eight points in the first three minutes of the half came off two of Tennessee’s four second-half turnovers. The Lady Vols ended with 13 for the game.

The Razorbacks would hold the lead until the 14:06 mark when a Glory Johnson layup tied the game at 45. The two teams would tie six times in the ensuing four-minute stretch, but Arkansas could not grab the lead.

That is, until McCray sunk a layup with 9:44 remaining, and was fouled by Stricklin. She converted the free throw and Arkansas led yet again, 56-55.

Tennessee regained the lead, 60-59, on a three-point basket by Bjorklund with 6:01 remaining, and Arkansas could not recover.

The Lady Vols went on to score eleven in a row to put the game away.

The attendance of 3,916 was a season high. The Lady Vols are now 20-1 all-time in Fayetteville.

The Razorbacks are back on the court at Mississippi State on Sunday for a 2 p.m. tipoff on Fox Sports Net. For complete coverage of Arkansas women’s basketball, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.