Tuesday, March 01, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Wolff lauded after final home game at UA

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Lone Arkansas senior Melissa Wolff, of Cabot, grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in her farewell home game.

It took until 4:16 of the third quarter on their home floor for the Arkansas Razorbacks to finally lead the SEC’s last-place women’s basketball team. And it took Kelsey Brooks’ tie-breaking basket to make a lead permanent. But the Arkansas Razorbacks Women, behind junior Jessica Jackson of Jacksonville scoring 15 of her team-high 17 points in the second half while blocking three shots, finally defeated the Ole Miss Rebels, 60-49, in the regular SEC season finale for both teams Sunday afternoon at Walton Arena.

Arkansas coach Jimmy Dykes said once the Razorbacks seized the fourth-quarter lead they were determined to secure a margin sufficiently comfortable for Wolff to exit to an ovation, which she did with 19 seconds left.

“I want to thank all the fans for coming out and I had a really good group from home (Cabot) as well,” said Wolff, a four-year Razorback. “It really means a lot. This place and this team has meant so much to me.”

Dykes said Wolff, whom he inherited these last two years from preceding coach Tom Collen, “probably understands the importance of a Razorback jersey as much as any athlete on our campus to ever wear one. She has been a blessing to me. Who she is, she is a 4.0 student and a leader, has impacted me and this team and this state and she is a dad-gummed good basketball player with 700 points and 700 rebounds.”

Freshman guard Jordan Danberry of Conway, whose free throw gave Arkansas its first lead at 30-29 in the third quarter, scored 13 and Brooks tallied 12.

Arkansas goes into its Thursday game with the Tennessee Volunteers at the SEC Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. 12-17 overall and 7-9 in the SEC.

The Rebels, losers of 10 consecutive SEC games, are 10-19 overall and 2-14 in the SEC before their 11th vs. 14th-seed SEC Tournament game Wednesday night, but led Arkansas 19-8 for the first quarter and 25-20 at half.

Despite Danberry closing the third quarter following a Jackson missed free throw with a putback and 39-31 lead closing a 15-2 run, Ole Miss tied it 44-44 with 5:10 left in the game before a Brooks basket and Wolff jumper moved Arkansas on a game-sealing 7-0 run.

Arkansas needed every one of Wolff’s 13 rebounds, given Ole Miss matched Arkansas on the boards, 45-45, despite the Rebels’ smaller size.

Rebounds tended to be long rebounds with Ole Miss misfiring 21 times on 27 treys while the Razorbacks going inside enabled them to attempt 40 free throws to Ole Miss’ six.

Arkansas only made 23 of the 40, but could afford the misses given Ole Miss scored but five free-throw points.

“The difference in the game, 40 to 6,” said Ole Miss coach Matt Insell. “Forty free throws to six free throws. And we are a driving team, obviously we shot some threes because they were playing zone but both teams are physical, so I can’t explain it (the free throw disparity). If A’Queen Hayes (the Ole Miss point guard fouling out in 21 minutes) doesn’t have to sit we score more than six points in the third quarter.”

Insell lauded Jackson, Wolff and Brooks.

Dykes admitted his Razorbacks “got off to a horrible start” but turned it around.

“Sometimes you have got to win games not playing well and we did today missing 17 free throws,” Dykes said. “But we were the more aggressive team and that’s why we got to the free-throw line more.”

Wolff was asked if she ever doubted her finale was not going to turn out victorious.

“I really didn’t,” Wolff said. “We started off slow, but I had faith. I never had a moment where I thought, ‘Oh, yikes, this might not end as I had hoped.’ Because I thought our girls fought really hard all the way to the end.”

A 2-2 score Sunday marked Arkansas’ first-half zenith. Arkansas trailed as much as 13 in the first-quarter, but closed to 19-8 and trailed 25-20 at intermission.

The Razorbacks about could have shot better blindfolded in the first half. They hit but 8 of 32 from the field, including 0 for 6 on threes and self-inflicted wounds at the first-half free-throw line, making but 4 of 12.
Ole Miss didn’t light it up either in the first half, just 10 of 34 from the field, firing 15 threes and only connecting three.

For the game, both teams could have stocked a brickyard. Arkansas shot 17 of 53 and only 3 of 12 threes and Ole Miss 19 of 68 with 6 of 27 threes.

Ole Miss’ Shendricka Sessom, 9 of 24 and just 1 for 9 on threes, led all scorers with 19 points while Rebels teammate Madinah Muhammad, 5 of 17 from the field with 2 of 9 treys, scored 14 points and Shequila Joseph scored 10.