Win Over Vandy A Dandy

FAYETTEVILLE -- Believe it. The Arkansas Lady Razorbacks are 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference.

Miracles come in unexpected moments, whether from 45 feet away from the basket or with a 5-foot-10 guard bumping elbows with towering forwards in the paint to pull down a game-saving rebound and winning it with a free throw.

It took those kind of plays and an unforgiving defensive performance for Arkansas to defeat No. 20 Vanderbilt, 52-51, in overtime Sunday afternoon in front of 2,687 in Bud Walton Arena.

And for only the third time in the Lady'Backs' 15-year history of playing in the SEC, they open league play a perfect 2-0.

"We played with something that was very intense," Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. "There was something special out there tonight. If you are playing as hard as you can and something good happens, like tonight, they want to keep doing that."

It looked grim for Arkansas, trailing 45-41 with 14.3 seconds remaining in regulation until sophomore Brittney Vaughn willed Arkansas to extend the game. Vaughn slashed into the lane for a reverse layup with 7.2 to play, cutting the deficit to 45-43.

Vanderbilt's steady captain, Dee Davis was quickly fouled, but made just the first of two free throws and Vaughn pulled down the rebound.

"After (Davis) missed the free throw I knew we were down three," Vaughn said.

She sprinted down the right side off the court and heaved a soaring shot from 45-feet from the drool of the Razorback at midcourt which sent the Bud Walton Arena crowd into a roar when the ball rattled in the hoop to send the game into overtime.

"I just threw it up," Vaughn said. "It was just luck. It felt great.

"I honestly didn't think it was going in."

In overtime, Arkansas trailed 51-48 until Rochelle Vaughn, Brittney's older sister, nailed a 3-pointer off a screen at the top of the key to tie the game with 14.8 to play.

On the other end, Arkansas' small senior guard, Leslie Howard -- who kept the Lady'Backs in the game in the first half with nine points -- fought for a rebound and was fouled, giving her two opportunities to win the game with 2.1 to go.

Howard made the first and missed the second, but Vanderbilt was unable to get off a 70-footer in time as Arkansas celebrated in a huddle at midcourt.

"I had no idea what would happen," Gardner said. "Vanderbilt could have come in here and won by 20 to be honest with you. We needed the score to be low. I like the way we finished this game."

Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb was furious the foul was called on Howard in a situation where everyone was fighting for the rebound.

"I'd love to talk about it, but I can't," Balcomb said. "What disappoints me is to see a game like that, which goes into overtime be settled by the call of an official. But that is what happens in women's basketball."

Sunday's win was Arkansas' first against a Top 25 team since the 2003-04 season -- Gardner's first year with the Lady'Backs -- when it beat No. 16 Georgia, 71-63, on Feb. 2, 2003 at Bud Walton Arena.

It was also Arkansas' first win over Vanderbilt since 2000.

But it would never had happened unless Vaughn answered the Lady'Backs' prayers with the half-court shot.

"It was a miracle shot," Gardner said. "A once-in-a-lifetime shot. It was huge.

"We could use a little good fortune right now."

Howard said: "It felt like we won the game. We knew we had five more minutes to beat these guys."

Arkansas led 24-19 at halftime as Howard recorded three 3-pointers off the bench and the Lady'Backs' defense forced 11 turnovers which they converted into 11 points.

For the game, Arkansas forced the Lady Commodores into 26 turnovers.

Vanderbilt went on a 10-3 run to open the second half to take its first lead, 29-27, since the 11:22 mark in the first half. But the Lady Commodores never led by more than five points, as the game remained a possession-by-possession defensive struggle.

Arkansas held Vanderbilt's leading scorer, Liz Sherwood -- a 6-4 sophomore transfer from Connecticut -- to under her season average with just 11 points. Caroline Williams, who had been averaging 13.5 points, was shutdown for five Sunday.

"It was the best we played defensively overall," Howard said. "(Vanderbilt's) posts were going to be a big problem and Vandy was huge. We had to pressure their guards and double their posts."

Howard led Arkansas, which shot just 32.3 percent from the floor, with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

Melissa Hobbs, who was singled out by Gardner as having an exceptional defensive game with four steals, added 10 points.

Vanderbilt was held to shoot just 37 percent, a sharp decline from its season average of 50.5.

Davis, who fouled out of the game with less than a minute in the overtime, led the Lady Commodores with a game-high 15 points, followed by Sherwood and Carla Thomas with 11.

Looking at the schedule, Arkansas has three of its next four games in Walton Arena, including hosting Auburn on Thursday at 7 p.m.






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