FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas women’s basketball coach Tom Collen believed his senior class deserved a better fate Sunday.
But one of the worst shooting performances of 2012-13 ended the Razorbacks’ season in the second round of the WNIT.
Arkansas struggled offensively throughout its 60-48 loss to Tulane in front of an announced crowd of 1,348 in Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks (20-13) fell into an early hole in the first half and never found enough consistency on offense to climb out of it, turning in its third-lowest shooting performance of the year (28.6 percent).
It helped Tulane (24-8) advance to a WNIT third-round game at Auburn later this week. Arkansas, meanwhile, moves into the offseason after saying good-bye to outgoing seniors Sarah Watkins, Quistelle Williams and Erin Gatling.
“I wish they could have played better,” Collen said of his seniors. “I wish the team could have played better for them and sent them out on a little bit higher note.”
Arkansas’ shooting woes – which lasted all game – kept it from happening Sunday.
The Razorbacks did hold an early 10-9 after forward Jhasmin Bowen made two free throws with 13:37 remaining in the first half. But it proved to be Arkansas’ last lead.
The Razorbacks couldn’t crack a Tulane defense that concentrated on taking away Arkansas’ penetration and post presence Sunday. The plan was effective. The Green Wave led 20-18 before putting together a big run to take control of the game.
Tulane outscored Arkansas 16-4 over the final 8:48 to hold a comfortable 36-22 lead at the break. The Razorbacks made one field goal – a short jumper by Watkins to end a 10-0 run by the Green Wave with 1:45 remaining — during that stretch.
“I think they scouted very well,” Arkansas guard Calli Berna said. “We ran our plays, we just didn’t execute like we should have. … We would’ve had open shots.”
Arkansas went 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) from the field in the first half.
“One of our goals was to keep them from driving on us and penetrating, which was something that really hurt us in our conference tournament,” Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said. “I thought we did that. First half, we really gave them one shot.”
Watkins said Arkansas’ effort on offense wasn’t the only problem in the half. Tulane shot 56 percent from the field in the first half, too, getting plenty of easy buckets.
“Missing shots is frustrating, but you’ve got to play off your defense,” Watkins said. “There’s two sides of the court. So we had some mistakes on both ends.”
Arkansas tightened up defensively after the break, holding Tulane to 30.8 percent shooting. But the Razorbacks still couldn’t find any consistency on the offensive end and the closest Arkansas could get to the Green Wave was eight points.
Watkins (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Williams (5 points, 4 rebounds) combined to go 7-for-26 from the field Sunday. Berna did finish with four assists to set the school’s single-season mark (209), but had one point on 0-for-5 shooting. Gatling also went just 1-for-6 during her final game as a Razorback.
Arkansas went 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) behind the 3-point line and 14-for-26 (53.8 percent) from the free-throw line.
“I felt like our kids were giving great effort and not getting anything out of it,” Collen said. “But a lot of that was that they continued to miss shots. A lot of that was that they continued to miss free throws. They got some turnovers, but they just couldn't convert the turnovers into any points. It was frustrating to watch.”
Arkansas’ seniors checked out of the game one-by-one in the final minute with Tulane’s win secured. The group embraced teammates and each other on the way to the bench, showing plenty of emotion as their Arkansas careers came to an end.
Collen said they’ll be remembered as a group that helped lead Arkansas to three straight 20 win seasons, which the Razorbacks wrapped up after beating Memphis in a first-round game last Thursday. But he had hoped they were capable of sticking around in the WNIT field a little longer than the second round.
“I felt like they had enough in them that they could win another game or two and try to build some momentum back,” Collen said. “Unfortunately with momentum you have got to build it yourself. We didn't play a great game against Memphis and obviously (Sunday) we didn't play our best basketball as well.”