Massengale lifts No. 7 Tennessee past Arkansas 60-51
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Even as Tennessee continued to struggle from the field, Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick wasn’t about to tell Ariel Massengale to stop shooting.
Warlick’s faith in her senior paid off, with Massengale scoring all 16 of her points in the second half as No. 7 Tennessee rallied for a 60-51 win over Arkansas on Sunday.
The win was the 10th straight for the Lady Vols (14-2, 4-0 SEC), who haven’t lost since Nov. 30 but trailed by as many as nine points in the second half against the Razorbacks (10-6, 0-4).
They rallied behind Massengale, the SEC’s third-best 3-pointer shooter, who entered the game connecting on 41.4 percent of her shots from behind the arc. After a scoreless first half in which she – like the rest of Tennessee – had trouble finding the basket, Massengale hit four 3-pointers in the second.
”She’s put in a lot of time shooting the 3, so I think she has a lot of confidence in it,” Warlick said. ”She knows what to do to adjust on her shot, so she’s not one of the ones I tell to quit shooting 3s.”
Massengale keyed a 17-3 run for the Lady Vols, who fell behind 37-28 before settling for the comfortable win in the end.
Cierra Burdick led Tennessee with 17 points, hitting 10 of 11 free throws, while Isabelle Harrison also finished in double figures with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Jessica Jackson led the Razorbacks with 18 points, finishing 8 of 19 from the field, while Melissa Wolff added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Arkansas, which was playing its third straight ranked opponent, has now lost four games in a row under first-year coach Jimmy Dykes.
A game after shooting a season-best 52.4 percent in an 81-58 throttling of No. 9 Texas A&M, Tennessee was 6 of 28 (21.4 percent) from the field in the first half, falling behind by as many as six points and 21-18 at the break.
The deficit swelled to 37-28 early in the second half after Jackson scored her eighth straight point for the Razorbacks, part of an 8-2 Arkansas run. The sophomore, coming off the bench for the first time in her career, scored her 10th straight Arkansas point moments later to put the Razorbacks up 39-34.
Massengale, however, quickly answered with her second 3-pointer to cut the lead to 39-37. She followed with another a moment later to tie the game at 40, and her fourth 3-pointer in a 7:30 span capped a 17-3 Tennessee run for a 51-42 lead.
”I guess I wasn’t clear enough about how we wanted to guard (Massengale), because she was the difference in the ball game,” Dykes said.
Tennessee finished 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) from the field in the second half, with Massengale finishing 4 of 11 overall after opening 0 of 4 in the first half.
”When I hit one, you start feeling it a little bit,” Massengale said. ”My teammates did a great job of finding me within the offense, and I just had to make shots.”
Tennessee has now won three straight games against Arkansas, and it holds a 26-2 overall edge in the series. The Lady Vols haven’t lost in Bud Walton Arena since 1996, and their last loss to the Razorbacks came in Knoxville in 2012.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols held SEC leading scorer Kelsey Brooks to eight points on 3 of 14 shooting. Brooks entered the game averaging a league-best 16.5 points per game.
Arkansas: Jackson, a preseason first-team All-SEC selection, came off the bench for the first time in her career for what Dykes called a ”coach’s decision” – finishing with 18 points in 24 minutes. Jackson led the Razorbacks in scoring last season as a freshman with an average of 16.2 points per game, and she entered Sunday second on the team with an average of 14.5.
Tennessee plays the second of three straight road games when it travels to Auburn on Thursday.
Arkansas is off for a week before hosting Missouri on Jan. 18.