By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The University of Cincinnati women's basketball team's fourth NCAA Tournament bid ended Sunday on the Bearcats' home court, as Arkansas won 71-57 before 4,413 fans at Shoemaker Center.
UC Bearcat Brittani Young, right, passes around Arkansas' Dana Cherry.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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Arkansas (22-10) plays Texas (26-5), a 90-46 winner over Hampton in Sunday's first game, in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. West Region second-round game at the Shoe.
The 10th-seeded Bearcats (23-8) dominated in the first half, leading by as many as nine points.
But depth and rebounding were the difference in the second half, as a revived Arkansas team claimed - and kept - control with 16:30 remaining.
"The second half we just didn't come out aggressive," UC coach Laurie Pirtle said. "We just didn't have the fire we had in the first half, and I thought they were getting every loose ball and being very aggressive. We just didn't respond really well."
The loss was UC's second at home this season, and third in three years at Shoemaker Center.
Carolyn Alexander scored seven of her team-high 19 points in the first half, but UC's biggest first-half impact was defensive.
The Bearcats became the only team this year to hold Arkansas leaders Shameka Christon and India Lewis scoreless in a half. Christon was charged with three fouls and three turnovers and played only three first-half minutes. Lewis misfired six times, half from 3-point range.
UC Bearcat Debbie Merrill (31) drives to the basket under Arkansas' Katrina Nesby.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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"It was very frustrating for me," said Christon, a 6-foot-1 forward and second-team all-Southeastern Conference selection.
Enter Dana Cherry. The senior guard scored 10 of her team-high 18 points in the first half to keep Arkansas close, and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
"(Cherry) just said 'Give me the ball.' It's not like she made every shot, but she took over and wanted the responsibility," Arkansas coach Gary Blair said.
Arkansas, ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press poll, proved its resilience in the second half.
The Lady Razorbacks went ahead on a Cherry free throw and the Bearcats never led again.
"An SEC team is going to be really physical, so Laurie told us to use the ball fake and maybe we could get a couple of their players in foul trouble," Merrill said. "It worked. But then we just didn't hit our shots."
UC shot 28 percent from the field in the second half.
Merrill finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, her 12th double-double of the season.
ARKANSAS (22-10) - Christon 5-10 2-2 13, Cherry 6-18 6-6 18, Wright 1-1 0-0 2, Lewis 4-13 0-0 10, Harper 1-4 0-0 2, Vaughn 2-5 0-1 4, Pfeifer 1-1 5-6 7, Harmon 0-2 0-0 0, Nesby 2-5 1-2 5, Vaden 5-5 0-0 10. Totals 27-64 14-17 71.
CINCINNATI (23-8) - Alexander 6-9 6-6 19, Young 0-1 0-0 0, Merrill 5-16 6-10 16, Sharp 3-16 0-0 6, King 5-7 0-0 13, Harvey 1-2 0-2 2, Stevenson 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 20-53 13-20 57.
Halftime-Cincinnati 32-28. 3-point goals-Arkansas 3-10 (Lewis 2-6, Christon 1-3, Harmon 0-1), Cincinnati 4-12 (King 3-4, Alexander 1-1, Harvey 0-1, Sharp 0-6). Fouled out-Vaden. Rebounds-Arkansas 39 (Cherry 8), Cincinnati 33 (Merrill 12). Assists-Arkansas 10 (Harper 5), Cincinnati 11 (Sharp 4). Total fouls-Arkansas 22, Cincinnati 16. A-4,413.
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