FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - Keira Peak and Jessica Jackson scored a team-high 14 points each and sparked a second-half rally, but the University of Arkansas women's basketball team (13-1, 0-1 SEC) fell short, 55-51, and suffered its first loss of the season in its SEC opener to South Carolina (13-1, 1-0 SEC) inside Bud Walton Arena on Thursday night.
Trailing by as much as 16 points in the second half, the Razorbacks battled their way back and Jackson hit a late three-pointer to pull UA within 49-45 with 1:13 remaining. A second attempt from beyond the arc by Jackson that would have cut the lead to one possession was not to be, however, as the Gamecocks would survive the comeback bid and leave with a win.
Jackson also had five rebounds in her first SEC action. Fellow freshman Kelsey Brooks tallied nine points and six rebounds from off the bench, while Jhasmin Bowen tied a career-high with 12 rebounds.
"It was certainly a challenge to score with the basketball and everyone could see that South Carolina is truly a great defensive basketball team," head coach Tom Collen said. "Honestly, I thought our defense was pretty solid as well. I think we adjusted to their physicality in the second half, and we got a little more aggressive on the boards, on the floor and with our attacking. I think we were just a little bit too stumped at the beginning of the game."
With two of the top three scoring defenses in the country pitted against one another, the game was a low-scoring affair early and SC held just a 4-2 lead by the first media timeout. The Gamecocks shot 25 percent (1-for-4) by the break, while the Razorbacks were just 17 percent (1-for-6).
The early shooting woes continued from the floor for Arkansas, as the South Carolina lead swelled to 12-2 by the 13-minute mark of the half.
The Gamecocks held a 24-14 lead with just over three minutes to play in the first half, maintaining 44 percent shooting and out-rebounding the Razorbacks 22-to-15. McKenzie Adams led the Razorbacks with five points, but was just 2-for-7 from the field. Adams and Jackson were a combined 3-for-15 from the floor, as both continued to try and settle in offensively.
Arkansas shot just 19.4 percent (6-for-31) in the first half, including 12.5 percent from three-point range.
Peak energized the Razorbacks with six quick points to open the second half, which influenced a much stronger start and set a tone for Arkansas in the second. The Razorbacks shot 50 percent over the first four minutes of the half and trimmed the Gamecock lead to 36-23, as Peak upped her point total to eight on 66 percent shooting.
The Gamecocks dominated the post the entire night, finishing with 30 points in the paint to just 18 from the Razorbacks. They also recorded 11 blocks and held a 41-25 with 11:31 to play.
Peak continued to battle and wearing her emotions on her sleeve, kept pushing to help get Arkansas back into the game. An 8-3 run helped the Razorbacks pull the game back to 41-31 with 7:52 remaining, as Peak led all scorers with 12 points and two of the team's eight steals.
The Razorbacks made one final push, as a Brooks three-pointer cut the lead to 45-38, then Jackson later found her mark from beyond the arc and cut the lead to just 49-45 with 1:13 to play. It was too little too late from Jackson, who finished the night 4-for-18 from the field. USC would fend off the rally and convert free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
With its conference schedule underway, Arkansas travels next to Columbia, Mo., and faces Missouri on Jan. 5. Opening tip is scheduled for 2 p.m.