The Razorback women’s basketball team (10-4, 1-0) held on to a slim one-point lead heading into the final moments in a 73-72 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels (10-4, 0-1) on Dec. 31. The Rebels inbounded the ball with five seconds left, but a steal on the final possession resulted in the Hogs coming away with a win in their first conference game of the season.
“I’m so proud of the way our kids hung together,” Razorback coach Mike Neighbors said. “(There) was huge support from our crowd in the fourth quarter. For our fans to come out on a cold, icy morning meant a lot to our kids.”
Arkansas’ defense started well, forcing Ole Miss to shoot only 4-for-13 from the field in the first quarter, while the Hogs shot a solid 54 percent, including 66 percent from three.
The Hogs led by five at the end of the first, but that lead slipped away thanks to a combination of Rebel three point and free throw baskets that helped Ole Miss take a one-point lead with 4:33 to go. It wouldn’t last long, as the Hogs would go on an 8-2 run and end the half leading by seven.
The third quarter was painted cardinal and white. Ole Miss never got within six points of the Razorbacks, and the Hogs reached a 12-point lead by the quarter’s end. On the bright side for the Rebels, the Hogs were having trouble defending against sophomore forward/center Shelby Gibson down low. Gibson scored 10 of the Rebels’ 18 points in the third quarter.
“(Gibson) is a very big presence,” graduate guard Devin Cosper said. “It’s just different (playing against) somebody like that that can control their body and know how to use their body to their advantage.”
While the third quarter had the Hogs cruising to a victory, the story was much different in the fourth. The Rebels went on a 15-5 run, and a mid-range jumper from Gibson tied the game up at 67 points for the first time since the 5:15 mark in the first quarter.
The Hogs led again thanks to the charity stripe and a three from sophomore guard Jailyn Mason but quickly found themselves up by only one after a responding three by Ole Miss junior guard Torri Lewis with 54 seconds left in the game.
One miss from Mason later, and the ball was in Rebel hands with 28 seconds left and the shot clock turned off. The Rebels missed a potential game winning shot, but were lucky enough to get the ball from out of bounds with five seconds on the clock.
Ole Miss tried to sneak in a surprise shot by inbounding the ball against freshman forward Taylah Thomas’ back, but it was to no avail. Junior guard Monk swatted the ball, and Ole Miss’ chances, away and rescued the Hogs from their first SEC loss.
“Believe it or not, on one of our very first practices we worked on that,” Neighbors said. “If you feel the ball thrown off your backside, you’re supposed to swat the ball away. We worked on that one day just for fun.”
Cosper ended the game with her sixth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Mason followed with 13 points, and Monk had 12. Gibson led the Rebels with a season-high 21 points and fouled out of the game with 3:22 left to play. Razorback sophomore forward Kiara Williams also fouled out, leaving with five points and nine rebounds.
“I think this is a huge confidence booster for us,” Cosper said. “They picked us last in the SEC. A lot of people will always pick us as an underdog, but we believe in ourselves so that’s all that really matters.”
Neighbors said he thought his team did a great job on the boards against a team that boasted several players with a size advantage over the Hogs.
“We were plus on the rebounds. That’s a major win,” Neighbors said. “We could not get as high as Promise Taylor can reach. So we tried ro tip some balls around, and we turned three or four of them into transition opportunities.”
The Hogs had 38 rebounds to the Rebels’ 34.
The women’s team will now join the men’s team in traveling to the same arena for their next conference game. They will face the No. 7 Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-0, 1-0) at 8 p.m. Thursday in Starkville, Mississippi.