"I was disappointed what we did to ourselves," Coach Sharon Fanning said. "You can't have a game where you're not prepared to play mentally. If you do, there's the results."
Among the results were falling behind as much as 11 points in the first half, and by nine points midway of the second period. Each time the Bulldogs were able to erase the deficit, but in the process they used up the best shot—and stops—they had to work with. And they paid a painful price, allowing a scrappy Razorback squad to steal one on the SEC road.
"We didn't have the focus," forward Robin Porter said. "Our energy wasn't there , our team intensity wasn't there. I guess we weren't playing as a team."
McCray's decisive score provided the last of her team-best 14 points, all off the bench, while four teammates tallied double-digits. Guard Ceira Ricketts added 13 points, and both Lyndsay Harris and Ayana Brereton had ten markers. State's Alexis Rack took top scoring honors for the afternoon with 18 points, all but three of those notched from beyond the arc, while Porter added 13 points with ten rebounds.
That wasn't sufficient to make up for slight Arkansas edges in shooting and rebounding though. Especially on the final play, when after a missed free throw the Hogs had two chances to score the putback and McCray did it. Fanning gave the guests credit for working, and working together, but "I still felt we put ourselves in position to win."
"We just got out-worked," said Rack. "They came up with some big plays toward the end of the game. But basically we got out-worked."
Early on it seemed State wouldn't get in any such position, as the Dogs appeared to be still celebrating their last-shot success at LSU Thursday night. They missed seven of the first eight shots, while the Razorbacks were taking and making good-percentage chances. Particularly on second and even third chances as Hog size showed inside. And when Brereton hit her side's first longball it was a 15-4 scoreboard at the 14:30 mark.
Given the wake-up call, State responded with a hot streak—as well as a zone defense that gave much-needed rebounding help. Rack ignited this comeback by sticking a series of three-pointers; three of them in fact, mixed with comparable longballs by Diamber Johnson and Armelie Lumanu. "The difference was I was open!" Rack said. The perimeter prowess, combined with forced Razorback turnovers, produced a 17-0 tear that had State in front by six before Arkansas ended through drought with a trey.
The shooting cooled over the half's last five minutes, while in the paint center Chanel Mokango was having a most frustrating day as repeated short shots simply rolled the wrong way. Arkansas solved their ball-movement issues and went to McCray inside for a regained lead. By intermission the margin favored the Razorbacks 36-32, and the Dogs were fortunate—in the form of two easy missed layups—not to trail by more.
Both sides slogged through the opening eight minutes of the new half, keeping it a one- or two-shot contest…when either side got a shot off as turnovers were as prevalent as baskets. Mokango made good on a putback eventually that had State within 47-45 at 13:38. They were still there three minutes later after five failed series. Arkansas wasn't scoring either, or not until Harris connected from the right wing for a three, and a fastbreak off another MSU miss made it 52-45 with Fanning calling time at 9:48.
State fell behind as much as nine before mounting another comeback try, again with outside shots doing the damage. Rack, then Johnson hit from the arc, and Mokano added a baseline jumper for a 58-55 difference. Rack should have had two free chances to come closer, but one was docked on a substitution violation on Mokango.
Still the Bulldogs were able to draw even, this time on consecutive second-chance scores as Johnson caught a loose ball and hit the fallaway; then after Mokago's attempt bounced long Porter followed for a rebound and 60-60 deadlock at 3:58. A Razorback fumble had State breaking for the lead, only to lose the handle at midcourt.
Lumanu missed one of two foul shots to tie, and on the long rebound Rack rushed her long jumper that missed. So did UA's Jamesha Townsend, giving State possession at the minute mark. Mokango missed in the lane; State got the ball back on a tie-up, only to have Rack really force one from the corner that was well short. "I felt I had a good look," Rack insisted.
It took Arkansas four tries to inbounds at MSU's end, the last successfully to Ricketts for a fast foul at 13.1 seconds. She missed the front end, but the rebound went to UA…as did the carom off a follow-up miss, right into McCay's hands for the easy bucket and 65-62 score at 8.8 ticks. It was plenty of time to get the ball to Rack, and her to get down to the right wing and put it up…on line but short.
"They get two offensive rebounds, that's the game," said Fanning. "The extra plays." Now the Bulldogs expect some extra work this coming week, as the coach tries to get them back on the winning track they enjoyed last week. A Thursday home game with Savannah State offers further opportunity to refresh and refocus before heading to Georgia next Sunday.