Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Walt Beazley)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - The University of Arkansas women's basketball team closed out their regular season on Thursday night, defeating SIU - Edwardsville 63-41.
The Razorbacks were led by a trio of seniors playing in their final regular season game, with Sarah Watkins recording a game-high 17 points, Erin Gatling posting 14 points and Quistelle Williams adding 11 points.
"The team played hard," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "I've never doubt our will to win. We shot the ball pretty well, and did some good things overall."
The Razorbacks opened up the game strong, going on a 12-0 run over the first 7:30 of the half. Arkansas forced six early turnovers, and the Cougars missed their first seven shots. Williams drained two early three pointers, Keira Peak added four points, and Watkins hit a fadeaway jumper to cap the run.
The Razorbacks hit eight of their first 16 shots, and extended their lead to 19-4 halfway through the first stanza. The Cougars began to cut into the Razorback advantage, but two three pointers from Gatling and one from Calli Berna helped extend the lead. Arkansas took a 30-20 lead into halftime.
In the first half, Arkansas shot 44.4% from the field, making 12-of-27 shots. The Razorbacks were sharp from long distance, hitting 6-of-12 shots from beyond the arc, including a career high in three pointers from Williams, who made three in the first half. Arkansas forced 13 first half turnovers, converting that into 10 points.
In the second half, the Cougars hung with the Razorbacks in the opening minutes. SIU-E cut the lead to 38-30, but Gatling responded with her third three of the game. The Cougars tried to keep pace with UA, but the Razorbacks extended their lead to 51-37 at the under-eight media timeout.
The Razorbacks continued their strong shooting from the floor throughout the second half, making 52 percent from the floor. They put the Cougars away by outscoring SIU-Edwardsville 33-22 in the second half for a 22 point victory.
"Coming off the SEC Tournament, we wanted to redeem ourselves," Williams said. "We wanted to play as well as we could to finish out the year strong."
"Our players can all make shots," Collen explained. "We have a pretty good group of offensive players, and we're also looking to get our young players some opportunities."
The Razorbacks shot 48.1 percent for the game, and forced 23 turnovers. Berna had 23 assists, tying her career high.
With the win, Arkansas now has won 30 consecutive nonconference games in Bud Walton Arena. Under Collen, Arkansas is now 44-1 in nonconference games at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks will now await a possible postseason bid, with selections announced late Monday night.