But that's as good as it got for Arkansas. After several defensive strategies hadn't worked well, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb switched to a zone, and Vanderbilt made a run to cut the lead to six points at 29-23 on a 3-pointer by Rachel Bell. However, Arkansas answered with a 3-pointer by Calli Berna to take a 9-point lead into halftime at 32-23.
Encouraged by the end of the first half, Balcomb started the same group at the beginning of the second half instead of the players who had started the game. That strategy put Kristen Gaffney, Rachel Bell, and Paris Kea into the lineup to start the second half.
For the first seven minutes of the second half, both teams held their ground with the Arkansas lead staying between seven and ten points. With 12:26 left in the game, the Razorbacks took an 11-point lead at 46-35 on a 3-pointer by Kelsey Brooks.
At that point, few people in the gym would have guessed that would be the last Arkansas field goal of the game.
But that's how it turned out. After Marqu'es Webb scored to cut the lead to single digits, 6-3 Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau returned to the game. In the last 12 minutes of the game, Arkansas missed all 18 of their field goal attempts. Five of those misses were shots that were blocked by Caron-Goudreau, who also had six rebounds and a steal in the Vanderbilit run over the final ten minutes of the game.
While the Razorbacks were missing shots, Vanderbilt was able to climb back into the game. A layup by Kea brought the Dores within 1 point at 47-46 with 3:48 left in the game. After a free throw by Gaffney tied the game, a jumper by Rebekah Dahlman gave the Dores their first lead of the game at 49-47 with 1:48 remaining.
However, the drama wasn't over for the night. As it turned out, once Vanderbilt took over the lead, they never lost it. But that lead never grew to more than four points, as the last 1:40 of the game played out over 18 minutes of real time, with numerous trips to the free throw line for both teams, including free throws following a technical foul by Dahlman, who was also on the receiving end of a flagrant foul.
In the final minute, both teams had their chances. Vanderbilt led by just one point at 52-51 with 35 seconds remaining and again at 54-53 with 10 seconds remaining. But in the end, the Dores held on for the 55-53 victory.
Next Vanderbilt travels to historic Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a Sunday afternoon game, followed by a road trip to Starkville for a rematch with Mississippi State on Thursday night. After the two road games, the Dores begin a 3-game home stand starting with Florida on Sunday, February 1.
Arkansas Head Coach Jimmy Dykes
Photos copyright 2015 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com