The Arkansas women’s basketball team took on the Mississippi Rebels in front of a packed Bud Walton Arena on Sunday, falling 76-73 to Ole Miss in overtime despite a 37-point explosion from redshirt senior forward Erynn Barnum.
After going down with an injury last season, Barnum has bounced back as one of the top bigs in the Southeastern Conference. After her performance Sunday, she ranks seventh in the SEC with 15.9 points per game and first in field goal percentage at 59.3.
“Before my injury, I was playing good,” Barnum said. “When I got hurt, I was hurt. It was bad. All I could think about this summer was getting back to myself, working hard with (head athletic trainer) Simone (Rush) all the time. I’ve grown close to Simone. Just playing my game. I know I can do it, so every night I come on the court I’m just trying to do what I know I can do.”
It was all Barnum early on for the Razorbacks. The veteran forward opened the game scoring eight of the first 10 Arkansas points while adding in some impenetrable rim protection at the other end.
Arkansas dominated early on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Rebels to four points on just 20% from the field to give themselves a 12-4 lead with five minutes left in the first period.
Coming out of the media timeout, Ole Miss looked fired up, employing the press en route to an 8-0 run to even the score at 12. Barnum was able to stop the bleeding, however, securing an offensive rebound for the putback in traffic, her 10th point and third rebound of the quarter.
Barnum’s connection with sophomore guard Samara Spencer was on display during the second period. The two combined for 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, all of which came from kick-outs deep in the paint between the pair.
Arkansas looked unstoppable on both ends of the floor during the second quarter, outscoring the Rebels 21-4 en route to a 19-point lead at halftime. Spencer had 10 points during the period, while Barnum had five to bring her point total to 18.
“We got chemistry,” Barnum said about herself and Spencer. “I know what she’s going to do and she knows what I’m going to do. She knows I have her back, so whenever she throws it up she knows I’m gonna go get it. It makes her job easier and it makes my job easier.”
Barnum and Spencer continued to shine throughout the third quarter. The latter played the facilitator role this time, notching three assists, all to the former, who scored seven in the quarter.
As good as the duo was, the rest of the Razorback squad struggled heavily on offense. Redshirt freshman guard Saylor Poffenbarger was the only other Hog to score while Ole Miss put up 19 to close the gap to 50-39 heading into the final quarter.
The Rebel run continued to open up the fourth quarter. They scored four points in the first minute, forcing Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors to call a timeout with 8:55 left, up 50-43.
“I just thought that they came out in the second half and they looked like a completely different team,” Neighbors said. “That was the team I expected to see in the first half. It took them a half to get it, but they certainly came out and dominated.”
The 10-0 Rebel run, which dated back to 1:02 in the third quarter, was finally halted by Spencer, whose explosive first step got her past her defender for a routine scoop layup. As if on cue, Spencer found Barnum off of the inbound play, bringing her point total to 27, a new career-high.
Ole Miss continued to respond, drawing contact on a made basket, securing the offensive rebound on the foul shot and putting it back up for a four-point swing to bring the deficit to just three points.
Barnum refused to let her team blow the once 19-point lead as she came down, made two free throws and an easy layup to extend the lead to seven and her point total to 31.
Yet again, the Rebels responded with a 6-0 run, forcing Neighbors to call a timeout up by one with 3:36 left to play. Ole Miss guard Angel Reese finished the three-point play to tie the game at 58.
After a series of back and forth, the Razorbacks got the ball down one with 29 seconds left and no timeouts. Neighbors called Barnum’s number, putting her in the pick-and-roll with senior guard Makayla Daniels, where she caught the ball rolling and layed it in through contact.
Barnum missed the free throw, but she made up for it by defending Ole Miss at the rim and securing the most important rebound of the game and getting fouled. The Rebels did not appreciate the celebration from the Razorbacks, and the officials eventually assessed double technicals.
Barnum headed to the free throw line with a one-point advantage and 7.1 seconds left. She went 1-2, but the Rebels came down and hit a wide open Tyia Singleton, sending the game to overtime.
Neither team was able to take an advantage throughout most of the overtime period, but a foul by junior Rylee Langerman sent Ole Miss to shoot three free throws. All three went in for a four-point lead, which the Hogs were not able to overcome.
“This one hurts a little bit more, it does,” Neighbors said. “Because of the crowd, because of what’s at stake, because of how we played in the first half and how we didn’t come out with the result we wanted. Going into the bye week we’re going to go one direction or another with seven games left.”
With the losing streak at four games and sitting at sixth in the SEC, the Razorbacks will need to make some serious changes before they take on Auburn at 2p.m. Sunday at Neville Arena. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network and stream live on the ESPN app.
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