Commodores Wrap Up Season Sweep

FAYETTEVILLE — Sarah Pfeifer figured someone must have played around with the goals inside Bud Walton Arena prior to Arkansas' Southeastern Conference clash with Vanderbilt on Sunday.

She had no other explanation for the Lady'Backs' most dreadful shooting day in their SEC history. "It was like they put some Saran Wrap over the goal to start the game, or they were sitting in the locker room putting some jinxes on us in pregame," Pfeifer said. "I don't know what it was. I know I missed two wide open elbow jumpers that I'm usually money on, even if I don't make anything else the whole game." Pfiefer wasn't the only one. Instead of losing to the Commodores due to a lack of defense — which was the case earlier this season in Nashville — this time Arkansas was handed another blowout by Vanderbilt thanks mostly to the Lady'Backs' own futility on offense. Missing its first 14 attempts from the field, Arkansas found itself facing a 16-0 deficit midway through the first half and never seriously threatened the Commodores in a 61-34 setback in front of a season-high crowd of 4,913. "If you told me before the game we would hold Vanderbilt to 61 points, I'd think we'd have a pretty good shot," Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. "I remember the last time in Nashville they had 98 (points), so obviously we improved defensively a little bit. "But you shoot 15 percent in the first half it kind of puts you in the hole." The Lady'Backs (18-5, 3-4 in the SEC) connected on just four field goals in the first 20 minutes, tying an all-time school low for a half of basketball in an SEC game. For the first 10 minutes, though, the crowd wondered if the Lady'Backs were going to score at all. "I think during the 12-minute media (timeout), I said something to (assistant coach) Mike (Neighbors)," Gardner said. "I said, ‘I've never experienced anything like this in my life.' I think I used that exact quote. "You would just think at some point your shots would start falling. And it seemed like the first couple of shots we had we had open shots." As dreadful as Arkansas' shooting was — both from the field and from the free throw line, where it finished just 12 of 27 — the Lady'Backs' defense did improve against a Commodores team which had torched Arkansas for almost 100 points back on Jan. 4. "I think (Arkansas) did a good job defensively denying our wings and being very aggressive and forcing us out of a lot of things we were able to do last time," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "They also did a better job taking care of the ball. Last time, we were able to score a lot off of their turnovers and when they turned it over this time, we didn't convert it into points. "So it wasn't a high-scoring game like last time and we knew we had to play better defense." Arkansas' shooting woes didn't stop at the halftime horn, unfortunately. After a 4-for-26 clip in the first half, the Lady'Backs hit just 3 of their first 17 attempts in the second half before finishing the game with three meaningless layups in a row to close out the game in the final minutes. "Like coach said after the game, maybe it's just a bad matchup for us," Pfeifer said. "Because offensively we played bad in both games and last time we didn't do anything right against Vanderbilt. "She used the example of our guys against Alabama, how they're ranked in the Top 15 but our guys beat them and spanked them on the road pretty much. It's kind of the same thing that maybe we just don't match up well with (Vanderbilt)." Arkansas is back on the road Thursday with a trip to Mississippi State, while Vanderbilt (18-4, 4-3) visits Kentucky the same night.

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