Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Logan J. Webster)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - The University of Arkansas women's basketball team (8-1) earned a huge home victory at Bud Walton Arena Thursday, knocking off the No. 17 Kansas Jayhawks 64-56. The win was the first Arkansas victory over a ranked opponent since a 72-71 overtime win at No. 6/7 Tennessee last season and the first non-conference home win over a ranked opponent since a victory over Oklahoma in 2010.
Multiple players stepped up in a big way for the Razorbacks, with four players reaching double figures. Quistelle Williams led the way with 15 points, and Sarah Watkins contributed 14 points in a strong performance. Keira Peak had 10 points and 10 rebounds for her third career double-double, and Calli Berna added 11 points, including a number of key free throws to put the Jayhawks away down the stretch. "It's a big win for a lot of reasons," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "Most importantly for their confidence. I want them to be able to step on any floor thinking they will win the game."
The game started slowly, until Watkins returned to her role of sparking the team off the bench. Entering with UA down 7-3, Watkins hit two straight jumpers, and scored 10 of the next 14 Razorback points. Freshman Melissa Wolff also came off the bench to add five first half points, and the two sparked a 10-0 Razorback run to take a 21-16 lead.
The Razorbacks ended the half strong after that run. Williams finished a fast break with a score, and Berna nailed a three pointer, as Arkansas took a 33-24 lead into halftime. Watkins' 10 points led UA in the first half, while Peak added seven points and six rebounds.
Each team shot 37.5% from the field in the first half, but the Razorbacks controlled a 24-14 edge in total rebounds, including 10 offensive rebounds. Arkansas was strong in all phases in the opening stanza, forcing 11 turnovers and adding seven points from the free throw line.
To open the second half, Kansas cut into the Arkansas lead with a 10-4 run over the first five minutes. Arkansas responded quickly though, as Jhasmin Bowen and Williams gave the Razorbacks strong play inside. Bowen led the team in second half scoring with 11 points, and Bowen added six crucial points.
The game went back-and-forth, with Kansas briefly retaking the lead for the first time since early in the second half. Arkansas responded with a 12-2 run over the span of 3:18, opening up a 56-47 lead with 3:57 to go.
The Jayhawks refused to fade down the stretch, battling the Razorbacks until the end. The Razorbacks countered every Kansas attack, and finished off the 64-56 victory.
The Razorbacks dominated the glass in the game, with their 47-31 advantage in rebounds being a huge key to the victory. Arkansas also forced a season high 19 turnovers on 11 steals.
"We really rebounded the ball well," Collen said. "We boxed out and got all the loose balls. I thought our defensive effort was good. I have a great deal of faith in the team. I believe in what they can do and they have great potential."
The Razorbacks became the first team to score at least 60 points against Kansas this season, dealing the Jayhawks (7-1) their first loss. The win extended Coach Tom Collen's record to 32-1 in nonconference games at Bud Walton Arena.
"I'm really excited about the win," Williams said. "Getting a win against a ranked team at home is great."
The Razorbacks are back in action on Dec. 16, as they travel to South Carolina to take on Furman at 1 p.m.