Lady'Backs Turn Away Wichita State

FAYETTEVILLE -- Despite a new-look lineup, Arkansas' best offense continues to be its defense.

After four games where the offense has sputtered while the defense had shined, Lady'Backs coach Susie Gardner inserted three new players -- Danielle Allen, Ayana Brereton and Charity Ford -- into the starting five. But more than anything else, the switch provided more of the same as Arkansas forced 29 turnovers en route to an 80-70 win against Wichita State in front of 1,447 in Bud Walton Arena. "We put in a new lineup for this game and that was our emphasis in this game, was to get on them hard and pressure them on defense," senior post Sarah Pfeifer said. "It started with our guards. We were all up on them and by the end, they were tired. They were missing free throws and it was probably because they were worn out." With Ford and Brereton joining Brittney Vaughn in the starting backcourt, Arkansas turned to a more aggressive defensive group to start things off against the Shockers (0-2). And the move eventually paid off as the Lady'Backs (5-0) once again were able to convert turnovers into easy lay-ups for much of the night. "Obviously that was the objective," Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. "I thought Charity did a great job putting pressure on the ball. And in all honesty, I asked my staff at half what they thought Wichita State was doing to hurt us." But Gardner acknowledged Arkansas's defense was the one taking Wichita State out of its game plan. While the defense again led the way, the Lady'Backs were able to improve from an offensive standpoint as well. Just like in the previous four games, Pfeifer and fellow post Lauren Ervin provided much of the scoring. But the difference Monday was the play of Dominique Washington, who hit four 3-pointers off the bench to give Arkansas some solid guard play it has desperately been searching for. "Coach has been asking for somebody to step up," Washington said. "I guess I was able to do that." After allowing Wichita State to keep the game close through the first 10 minutes, the Lady'Backs used a pair of Washington 3-pointers to help build a 43-30 lead at the halftime break. Ervin was also doing her part, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the first half on her way to an 18-point, 13-rebound effort on the night. "Lauren had a huge game for us," Gardner said. "And of course Sarah, being the stable scorer that she is, comes off the bench and is our second leading scorer. "And Dominique, praise the Lord, comes in and hits some 3's." The Shockers were able to fight back early in the second half, cutting Arkansas' lead to 48-44 with 13 minutes, 18 seconds left to play. But the Lady'Backs were able to answer, quickly rebuilding the lead back to double digits. "I feel like this team can make a stop when they need to make a stop," Gardner said. "And I think if we need to score, we can score." Arkansas is back in action Friday when it begins play in the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu. The Lady'Backs face Denver at 7:20 p.m. Friday in the first round of the tournament.

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