Lady'Backs Lean On Defense

FAYETTEVILLE -- How does a team shoot only 32.3 percent from the field and still pull out a 65-62 win in a game of hoops?

Defense.

Welcome to Arkansas Lady Razorbacks basketball.

Struggling from the 3-point line (4-for-23), the free throw line (21-for-33) and from the floor overall (20-for-62), Arkansas needed another big night from its scorestoppers to be successful against Oregon. And in the first half, the defense was like never before, as the Lady'Backs limited Oregon to just 15 points while forcing 17 turnovers and picking up 10 steals.

"We had probably the best first half we've had all year," said Arkansas coach Susie Gardner. "You hold a team like Oregon , with all those scorers, to 15 points, that's amazing.

"I didn't know if we could play them man-to-man and then we went to a 2-2-1 trap and they didn't score for a long time, but we didn't either."

While the Lady'Backs (9-1) weren't exactly burning down the nets through the first 20 minutes, their defense was burning up Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday, as Oregon was faced with a 31-15 deficit at the break.

During a seven-minute, 38-second stretch in the first half, Oregon couldn't even score as Arkansas' 15-11 lead grew slightly to 21-11.

Now that's some defense.

"We wanted to keep the pressure on them," said Arkansas junior guard Rochelle Vaughn. "We have to do that to win. We have one of the best defenses, steal-wise, in the nation, and that's the way we have to play."

Oregon (7-2) wasn't ready to board the plane back to Eugene after one half, though. The Ducks stormed back in the second half -- led by the 3-point shooting of Catherine Kraayeveld -- and cut Arkansas' lead to one point in the game's final minute. After some subpar shooting at the free throw line by Arkansas, Oregon had a chance to tie the game on the game's final possession.

But again, much like the first half, much like the whole first part of the season, Arkansas' defense was there to save the day.

Oregon set up Kristin Forristall off a screen for a game-tying 3-pointer just before time expired, but Lady'Backs' junior guard Sheree Thompson emphatically ended the Ducks' hopes, blocking Forristall's shot to preserve the Arkansas win.

"I was right there," Vaughn said, of Thompson's block. "It was all ball."

"I thought we got a good look, but you're not going to get that call on the road in that situation," said Oregon coach Bev Smith. "But maybe we should have tried something different."

Smith wasn't blaming the last play for the loss. If anything, the first half had to be difference.

"I'll give Arkansas all the credit," Smith said. "They (Arkansas) were the aggressor. They had 20 points off turnovers and we had problems in the halfcourt."

Offensively, Tuesday certainly wasn't the Lady'Backs' best and brightest night out on the town. But if anything, the win showed why Arkansas could be a dangerous team this season.

As long as you play defense like this, you'll have a chance.

"Coaches say that all the time, bring your defense," Gardner said. "I said that earlier about shooting only 32 percent, but we'll always bring our defense and hustle."

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