Seniors led Lady'Backs but Bonner too much for Arkansas

NASHVILLE – The Arkansas seniors gave it their best effort, but DeWanna Bonner was too much for the Lady Razorbacks as the Auburn Tigers took the win, 73-51, in the opening round of the 2008 Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament.

The loss ends the regular season for Arkansas at 17-13 overall. Auburn picks up its 20th win of the year, and advances to the second round to meet the tournament’s third-seed, Vanderbilt.

Bonner led the Tigers (20-10) with 26 points and 14 rebounds.

Arkansas was led by its two seniors, Sarah Pfeifer and Brittney Vaughn. Vaughn led the Lady’Backs with 14 followed by 13 for Pfeifer.

“It was a frustrating loss,” UA head coach Tom Collen said. “We let it get away from us, and it’s hard to battle back.”

An already short bench got even shorter for Arkansas before the game as freshman Ashlea Williams was unable to participate. The 6-2 post from Springfield, Mo., suffered a deep cut on her head in last Sunday’s game at Auburn and a concussion. Without Williams, Arkansas had only eight scholarship players for the opening round tournament game and no post substitutes.

“It’s hard with so few players,” Pfeifer said. “We have to have all five on the court hitting, and we didn’t have that tonight.”

When Pfeifer picked up her fourth foul just four minutes into the second half, Arkansas turned to its other senior Vaughn. The guard scored six of Arkansas first nine points of the second half to pull back within single digits, 47-38.

The Lady’Backs were hampered all night in their comeback efforts by poor shooting, particularly at the free throw line where Arkansas hit only 14-of-23. Arkansas shot only 34% from the field and just 8% from three-point range.

“It’s hard to battle back, and we weren’t executing the offense,” Vaughn said. “We missed to many layups and we didn’t score at the line with the clock not moving.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers hit 57% from the field.

Auburn jumped on the short-handed Lady’Backs with a 7-0 run from the tip and built a 13-point lead, 20-7, in the first nine minutes of the game. Pfeifer rallied Arkansas to back within nine midway through the half before Auburn’s Bonner took control.

The Tigers finished the first half shooting 61.5% from the field to go into halftime with a 41-29 lead.

Auburn also got 17 points from Jordan Greenleaf.

Arkansas returns to Fayetteville to prepare for the postseason. Monday, March 17, is the selection day for all three of the women’s basketball tournaments, the NCAA, the Women’s NIT and the Women’s NIC.