Arkansas Chomps Up Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sometimes in games like this, you're glad the only statistic that matters is the final score. Arkansas shot the ball dreadfully, missed too many free throws, turned the ball over way too many times and gave up too many easy baskets.

Arkansas also won. Despite one of its more woeful halves of basketball this season, the Lady'Backs found a way — some way — to hang around before rallying in the second half for a 67-57 win against Florida on Sunday in front of a crowd of 1,273 in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. "I was thinking (in the first half), we're going to lose this game," Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. "But when we cut it to six points at halftime, I felt really good." And she should have. With the way Arkansas played in the first half, it's a wonder Florida didn't lead by 26. Led by a 3-point barrage by go-to guard Sha Brooks, the Gators opened up a 15-point lead with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left before intermission. Somehow and someway, though, the Lady'Backs — who picked up their third-straight Southeastern Conference win on Sunday — were able to close things up from there. Hitting just nine field goals in the first half — and connecting on just 2 of 12 first-half 3-point attempts — it's anybody's guess how Arkansas rallied before the break. But thanks to a few Florida turnovers and a key 5-0 run right before the halftime horn, the Lady'Backs suddenly trailed by just a 28-22 margin as the team's went to their respective locker rooms. Suddenly, everything changed. Well, almost everything. The missed free throws were still there in the second half — Arkansas finished the game just 14 of 26 from the stripe — and the Lady'Backs still gave the ball away a time or two much, but Arkansas (18-3, 3-2) clearly had the upper hand. Especially once the Lady'Backs finally got the lead. "I think once we tied and got the lead, you know, this is the type of team we are," Gardner said. "We've been in these type of games all year." It took a while for Arkansas to get that lead, though. After a brief, 2-0 advantage, Arkansas had to wait until Brittney Vaughn's lay-up with 5:28 remaining in the game to regain the scoring edge. Vaughn's drive through the lane gave the Lady'Backs a 50-49 lead and from there, it was almost all Arkansas as Donica Cosby followed with back-to-back baskets and Florida went cold — losing their fifth consecutive SEC game. "One of our focus for this game was to have a better start," Gators coach Carolyn Peck said. "And we did that. "But I would say the difference in this game, the one stat that stands out is our fouls and us sending (Arkansas) to the free throw line." No doubt, the Lady'Backs had a clear edge at the charity line, attempting 26 free throws to Florida's eight. But Arkansas also struggled a great deal from that line, nearly costing them the game before the late run. "We got to the free throw line, which was good," Gardner said. "But we missed a lot of free throws. We can't do that." Cosby came off the bench and scored a team-high 15 points in just 19 minutes, while Lauren Ervin posted her usual double-double by finishing with 10 points and career-high 20 rebounds for Arkansas. "The difference in the second half was Ervin," Peck said. "They were able to go to her for easy buckets or she would fight for the rebound on her own miss." For the Gators (6-14, 0-5), Brooks ended the game with a career-high 28 points and Marshae Dotson added 14.

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