The No. 23 University of Arkansas women's basketball team suffered a Southeastern Conference loss in the league opener at Auburn, 50-47, Thursday.
Poor shooting and trouble inside ended the Razorbacks' nine game winning streak as Arkansas falls to 12-2 overall and 0-1 in the SEC. Auburn moves to 12-2 overall and 1-0 in the league.
"We lost our composure a couple times and that was the difference," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "There weren't a lot of things we did great. They are a hard team and we knew that was going to happen. We didn't deal with their physicalness very well. We played better in the second half but we had a couple of spurts where we turned it over and they turned those into layups. We battled them well and guarded them hard but they made their shots."
Ugly shooting by both teams through the opening five minutes of the first SEC game of the season allowed Arkansas a one-point, 5-4, lead at the first media timeout. Arkansas was shooting 29 percent on 2-for-7 while Auburn was shooting 22 percent on 2-for-9 as both programs looked to control their excitement and contain their nerves.
Auburn was able to grab the lead on back-to-back baskets from Hasina Muhammad but Calli Berna answered with the first three of the game bringing the Razorbacks within two, 10-8, at the second media timeout. Cold shooting continued and Auburn's oversized guards hampered the Razorbacks' ability to get the ball inside early in the game.
The turnovers began to mount up for the Razorbacks after the second timeout and Arkansas had seven miscues at the 7:34 mark of the first half. Auburn was also winning the rebounding battle early - both factors Collen and the team prepared for coming into the contest.
Arkansas was able to clean up the turnovers while forcing more from Auburn but the Tigers kept up the fanatic pace of play and crashed the boards nearly doubling up Arkansas in the late minutes of the half.
As the first half closed, the game was developing as Collen predicted - low scoring and fast-paced. Arkansas took a 20-19 lead into the locker room.
Both teams had 10 turnovers at the half and the Razorbacks were shooting just 26 percent going 8-for-31 in the first frame. The defense stepped up holding Auburn to 29 percent on 8-for-28 from the floor and Arkansas significantly closed the rebounding gap, 21-23, in the first 20 minutes.
Quistelle Williams emerged as the go-to player for the Razorbacks with nine first half points and Melissa Wolff grabbed a team-leading five boards in limited minutes. The Razorbacks struggled to get the ball inside and Auburn scored 14 points in the paint while holding Arkansas to just two in the first half. Sarah Watkins and Jhasmin Bowen were scoreless in the first 20 minutes.
The back and forth battle continued in the second half. Arkansas was more aggressive out of the break but Auburn's tough defense and rebounding quickly wore on the Razorbacks as the lead swung from side to side.
At the mid-point of the second half, Auburn put together a 12-2 run that had Arkansas down by seven - the largest Tiger lead to that point. The Razorbacks' inside game remained stagnant with the Tigers scoring 28 points in the paint and holding Arkansas to just four with just under 12 minutes to play.
The Razorbacks closed to four, 45-41, hitting a couple of big free throws and kept chipping away at the score as the game became increasingly physical.
By the final media timeout at 3:36, Arkansas trailed by just two, 47-45, with Auburn on the line. The Tigers made one of two and Williams crashed the boards on the other end and scored cutting the lead to one, 48-47, with 2:29 to play.
Arkansas had the ball stolen on the offensive end and the Tigers laid it in taking a three point lead with under a minute to play. The Razorbacks got a shot off with the clock running out but they were unable to connect dropping their first game in SEC play.
Arkansas shot just 27.1 percent for the game on 16-for-59 and struggled in the pain with just 10 points. Williams lead the Razorbacks with 13 points and eight rebounds. Watkins finished with nine points and fouled out of the game while Berna had eight points for Arkansas.
Auburn was led by Tyrese Tanner with 15 points and Peyton Davis had 17 rebounds for the Tigers.
The No. 23 Razorbacks open the home portion of the SEC schedule Sunday hosting No. 24 Texas A&M in a 2 p.m. from Bud Walton Arena. It is the first SEC meeting in program history for these teams but the second in two seasons after the Aggies ended Arkansas' NCAA Tournament run last season. The game is televised by FSN. Please check local listings for more information.
For more information regarding Razorback women's basketball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.