(Photo courtesy: Walt Beazely)
COLUMBIA, Mo. (Univ. of Ark.) - Jessica Jackson tied a career-high 22 points and Melissa Wolff added a double-double in her first career start, as the University of Arkansas women's basketball team (14-1, 1-1 SEC) held off Missouri (12-3, 1-1 SEC) for a 69-66 win at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo., on Sunday.
The team's first conference win of the season, six different Razorbacks scored at least three points in a balanced attack offensively. Calli Berna scored 11 points of her own and dished out eight assists, while Kelsey Brooks added eight points from off the bench.
"We had so many great efforts today," head coach Tom Collen said. "You've got to start with Melissa Wolff and for her to play the way she did rebounding, defending--really started with her. We had a lot of other great contributions today as well, especially from our freshmen. I think we grew up a little from this."
The Razorbacks combined to knock down 16 straight free throws and close out the win down the stretch. Berna scored all 11 of her points in the second half, including going 8-for-8 from the free-throw line over the closing minutes.
"We found out we've got kids that aren't afraid to go to the free-throw line," Coach Collen said. "They did a fantastic job closing this one out. Missouri did a nice job making it interesting and giving us all that they had."
Jackson was aggressive early offensively, scoring nine points in the first half and helping Arkansas to an early 9-4 lead. The freshman had scored 12 points in her first SEC game against South Carolina. Both teams maintained good pace throughout the first half, as each tried to settle in offensively. The Razorbacks did most of their early work in the paint, scoring 18 first-half points down low. UA also outscored MU 9-to-0 on the fast break.
Behind a quick 7-2 run, the Razorbacks extended its lead to 22-13 with just under six minutes to play in the first. The spurt was highlighted by a three-point basket in transition from McKenzie Adams, which was then immediately followed by a steal and score from Peak. Adams and Peak were a combined 2-for-13 in the first half.
In her first career start, Wolff nearly put together a flawless first half with six points (3-4 FG) and five rebounds. Brooks came in off the bench and provided a handful of energy for the Razorbacks, as she added six points, two rebounds, one block and two steals.
Arkansas took a 27-24 lead into the locker room at half after holding MU's third-best three-point to just 1-for-7 three-point shooting. The Tigers were just 27 percent from the field, led by seven points each fro Morgan Eye and Bri Kulas.
The Tigers came into the game ranked No. 3 in the NCAA for three-point shooting, while the Razorbacks entered as the seventh-best team in the country at defending the three-point shot.
Eye and the Tigers began to find their range from distance early on in the second half, as Missouri took its first lead at 33-31 five minutes in. Jackson reached double digits for the Razorbacks, while Brooks and Wolff had eight points each. As the score evened up, so did the shooting of both teams, as UA dipped to 37 percent from the floor and the Tigers improved to 36 percent.
Back-to-back three-point baskets from Berna and Adams tied the game up at 42 with 8:31 to play. Both teams were 3-for-13 from distance (23%).
Jackson and Wolff came up with big shots late to help push the Razorbacks out in front with a comfortable lead, combining to score 17 of the team's final 24 points.
Arkansas returns home but quickly takes to the road again, travelling next to Gainesville, Fla., for an SEC road showdown with Florida. Opening tip is scheduled for 6 p.m.