FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The 11th-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team regrouped after squandering a 12-point lead to pull out an 84-77 victory over the 20th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in a Southeastern Conference opener Thursday night before 4,243 at Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas, which led only once at 2-0, pulled even at 61-61 on a fastbreak layup by Makayla Daniels with 6 minutes, 24 seconds left. A&M (13-1) regained the lead on a layup by junior guard Chennedy Carter and rebuilt the lead to 73-66 on the strength of six free throws. The Aggies, though, had some trouble finishing with Arkansas’ Amber Ramirez missing a 3-pointer with 9 seconds left that would have pulled the Razorbacks within a point.
A&M closed out the scoring with three free throws to finish 16 for 24 for the game, including 15 for 20 in the final six minutes for its eighth straight victory.
“I thought [the key] was they hit adversity but they fought through it instead of folding,” A&M assistant coach Amy Wright said on the KZNE postgame shot.
Arkansas, which came into the game leading the nation in free throws made and attempted, made only 9 of 13.
The Razorbacks (12-2) hit 12 of 27 3-pointers but couldn’t contain Carter and junior power forward N’dea Jones, who combined for 50 points. Carter had 28 points, hitting 12 of 23 field goals, including a trio of 3-pointers early. The 6-foot-2 Jones had a career-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting as the Aggies shot 50% for the game (31 of 62). Several times Jones scored off a miss as A&M had a 16-8 edge in second-chance points. Jones had a game-high 14 rebounds, five of them on the offensive end.
Junior wing Kayla Wells added 15 points and junior post Ciera Johnson had 11 points and 10 rebounds. They helped A&M to a 46-26 edge in points in the paint. Senior point guard Shambria Washington didn’t make a field goal and had only four points, but she had eight assists with only one turnover and was the lone player to play all 40 minutes.
“She ran our team,” Wright said. “She got people shots they needed to shoot and hit big-time free throws near the end, and that’s what a point guard is supposed to do.”
Arkansas, which had a seven-game winning streak snapped, also had four score in double figures. Chelsea Dungee had 20 points but struggled much of the game, hitting only 8 of 22, including 1 of 7 on 3-pointers. She scored 12 in the fourth quarter. Alexis Tolefree had 18 points, hitting 6 of 8 3-pointers, including banking in two. Amber Ramirez had 14 points but also struggled, hitting just 4 of 16 from the field. Kira Williams came off the bench for 11 points.
Arkansas tied the game in the second half with a 15-4 run fueled by five A&M turnovers before A&M regrouped and played better down the stretch.
“Our team is really focused,” Jones said. “This is a mature team. [Assistant coach Bob Starkey] said they were going to go on their runs. So after the first timeout at five minutes, we were like, ‘OK, they went on their run. It’s time for to go on our run.’ We knew we had to stop them to go on ours.”
Carter and Jones combined for 31 points in the first half.
Carter made 5 of 6 shots in the first quarter, including 3 of 4 3-pointers for 13 points to outscore Arkansas as A&M led 20-10. Carter cooled off in the second quarter, making only 1 of 6 shots, but the rest of the team was 7 of 9 led by Jones, who hit 3 of 4 including a layup with 17 seconds left for a 44-32 lead.
Carter, who had hit only 2 of her last 17 3-pointers, made a pair of 3s and a layup to give A&M a 13-5 lead in less than three a half minutes.
Carter missed playing against Arkansas in last season’s SEC tournament semifinals after fracturing the pinky finger on her shooting hand in a 66-53 victory over the Razorbacks in the regular-season finale. Arkansas beat A&M 58-51 in the SEC tournament, scoring the game’s final 17 points.