Razorbacks Avoid Nightmare Result

FAYETTEVILLE — As Tom Collen looked over game film after game film preparing his team for Thursday's opponent, the bad feelings only grew worse.

"I can't tell you how many times in the last three days I've watched every game Dartmouth has played," Collen said. "I watched them just before I went to bed every night, and every night I had a nightmare about what I thought was going to happen. And (Thursday) that nightmare just unfolded exactly the way I imagined it."

Good thing for Collen, though, the nightmares didn't come true completely. Despite a dreadful 22-for-64 effort from the floor and a lineup handcuffed by foul trouble and injuries, Arkansas relied on stellar play from its two budding freshmen to rally past Dartmouth, 66-57, in front of an announced crowd of 1,165 in Bud Walton Arena.

"Unfortunately I didn't dream that we came back and we won it in the end," Collen said. "Somehow the nightmare just stopped when we were getting beat. If I would have known that we weren't maybe I wouldn't have worried so much. On the other hand, maybe the fact that I was worrying was an instinct that served us well because we kept cautioning and cautioning our kids that Dartmouth was a pretty competitive team that did a lot of things we hadn't seen before.

"All in all, I thought it was one of the grittier wins that we've had all year long. We were clearly behind, our bench was shorter, we were in foul trouble, we've got a lot of little injuries right now. We just left those kids out there and they made plays, and thank God for the two freshmen. They stepped up in a big way in a pressure situation and made great plays for us."

After building an early, 12-3 lead, the Razorbacks (9-2) would play from behind for much of the evening. With senior Ayana Brereton on the bench with early foul trouble and junior Ashley McCray absent while attending a family funeral, the shorthanded Hogs would fall behind, 29-27, at half and see that deficit grow to 45-36 by the 13 minute, 12 second mark of the second half.

But with the outcome in doubt, Arkansas turned to its freshmen duo Ceira Ricketts and Lyndsey Harris to avoid disaster against the Ivy League opponents. Ricketts — who finished with a career-high 19 points and nine rebounds — and Harris, who added 16 points and six rebounds, made all the key plays in the Razorbacks' comeback.

None bigger than Harris' 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining, breaking a 57-57 tie to give Arkansas the lead for good.

"I've really been working on my shot a lot lately," Harris said. "And when that shot came, I didn't even realize the game was tied. But it came at a good time for us I guess."

Dartmouth (2-7) appeared to be in control for most of the second half against an Arkansas team still showing signs of rust from an eight-day layoff. But down the stretch, it was a different story for the Big Green.

"I thought they wore us down a bit at the end," Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus said. "None of our kids are on athletic scholarships, but they are good basketball players. And we're road warriors. We've been on the road, we played SMU and then we turn around and play these guys tonight.

"So yeah, I thought we could have played better down the stretch but we didn't."

And despite one of their uglier overall efforts, the Razorbacks found a way to make sure Collen's nightmare didn't turn into reality.

"I just think it was a huge win for us," Collen said. "I mean I'm not ready to put this in the column that's going to get us into the NCAA Tournament. I just think for a young team coming out of finals and to be pressed to the bitter end and to find a way to win when they were exhausted, it was just a gritty effort.

"Nothing was pretty about it except for the final score."

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