FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Shyra Ely fell one point short of matching a career-high with 30 points as Tennessee held off a valiant Arkansas effort on Sunday afternoon, winning 84-71.
“I told them that they should gain some confidence from this one,” Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. “Now we know that we have it in us to fight back, we maybe didn’t know that before tonight.”
Arkansas (15-8, 3-9) trailed by as many as 20 in the game, but came roaring back in the final minutes to cut the game to eight.
“Arkansas did a great job of dribble penetration and their post defense was very good when we got caught behind,” Tennessee coach Pat Summit said. “I’m just pleased we could come out with a win.”
Trailing by 17 at half and 20 with 10 minutes to play, Arkansas cut the Tennessee (21-4, 11-1) lead down to eight with eight minutes remaining. A steal by Thompson led to an easy bucket followed by a bad pass by Tennessee on the next possession which also led to a Thompson lay-up put Arkansas within striking distance.
“I was surprised,” Tennessee guard Shanna Zolman said. “They played very hard and have a lot of heart. They are very aggressive, played the passing lanes well and got (the comeback) started with the defense.”
Following Arkansas’ surprising run, Tennessee regrouped to bring the lead back to 16, but Arkansas continued to peck away with tough defense and timely shooting. Fouling on every Tennessee possession over the final minute of action, the Lady Vols were able to keep their lead over 10 to the final buzzer.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the opening moments of the contest, but as the game heated up, so did the Lady Vols. Rattling off the game’s first four points, Tennessee opened the contest with a 21-5 run to force the Lady Razorbacks to take ill-advised shots in an attempt to catch up.
“There was a point in the first half where we looked like we were going to fold the tent,” Gardner said. “This was a positive in terms of their fight and continuing to make things happen.”
Tennessee guard Shyra Ely led all scorers with 30, coupled with 11 rebounds for a double-double. She was the only Lady Vol to score in double digits. For the Lady Razorbacks, Pfeifer and Thompson each had 17 with Danielle Allen contributing a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards.
“Looking at the team early and again now, Arkansas is much improved in every aspect,” Summitt said. “Their defense was very aggressive but like us they are prone to turnovers too much.”