GREENVILLE, S.C. — The 15th-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team was well on its way to winning a second straight game at the Southeastern Conference tournament without two-time All-Southeastern Conference guard Chennedy Carter until its offense sputtered and Arkansas got rolling.
The Razorbacks (20-13) closed the game on a 17-0 run to claim a 58-51 victory in the semifinals Saturday night. The 10th-seeded Razorbacks, winning for the third straight day, advance to play fifth-ranked Mississippi State at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Arkansas’ Ra Northcross-Baker hit a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 15 seconds left to start the comeback. Alexis Tole-free and Jailyn Mason followed with 3s. Mason gave Arkansas a 52-51 lead with a pair of free throws with 3:03 left. Chelsea Dungee delivered the crunching blow, a 3-pointer with 1:03 left.
A&M (24-7) turned the ball over on a charge by sophomore guard Kayla Wells with 47 seconds left. Wells, who had scored 28 points in Friday’s 64-62 quarterfinal victory over Auburn, fouled out 9 seconds later. Dungee hit a pair of free throws to send Arkansas into the SEC title game for the first time. The Razorbacks also are the lowest seed to make the finals.
Dungee had 17 points. Mason added 15 points and Tolefree 11. Arkansas, which twice trailed by 16 points, hit 4 of 7 3-pointers in the final quarter after hitting only 3 of 14 in the first half.
“It seemed like in the fourth quarter we got every 50/50 ball,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said. “Then we created some we probably shouldn’t have had 50/50.”
A&M was led in scoring by 6-foot-4 sophomore post Ciera Johnson with 18 points, hitting 7 of 12 field goals. Sophomore power forward N’dea Jones added 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting as the Aggies had a 26-10 edge in paint points. Jones had a game-high 14 rebounds and Johnson added 11 as A&M had a 36-22 edge, but they also had eight of A&M’s 21 turnovers that Arkansas turned into 21 points.
“Can’t score if you turn it over,” Johnson said. “A lot of them were live-ball turnovers, giving them the opportunity to run down and shoot wide open 3s. A lot of that is on me not being able to pass out of a double or triple team.”
A&M had eight turnovers in the last 8:05, missing seven of its last eight shots. A&M for the game made 19 of 49 field goals (38.8 percent), including 2 of 11 on 3-pointers.
“We had 21 turnovers tonight against the zone, and we had 26 last night,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “That’s all on us.”
Wells had 14 points, but hit only 5 of 13 shots. Junior point guard Shambria Washington and sophomore guard Jada Walton were each 1-of-7 shooting. Walton, making her second career start in place of Carter who missed the tournament with a broken right pinky finger, had six turnovers.
“What we didn’t do was execute our half-court offense from about the middle of the second quarter on,” Blair said. “It was hit, miss, hit, miss. You can’t win a game that way.”
A&M made the game’s first three buckets for a 7-0 lead and rolled to a 17-2 lead in just over 4 minutes as Johnson had six points and Jones and Wells four each. Dungee hit a 3 to pull Arkansas within 19-11 at the end of the quarter.
A&M made it 29-13 early in the second quarter on a pair of free throws by Wells, but Arkansas scored the last eight points of the half to pull within 29-21. A&M pushed its lead to 16 again as Wells hit a layup early in the third quarter to make it 39-23, but Arkansas closed the third quarter on 10-2 run to pull within 45-38.
“We got beat by the hottest team in the SEC, not the best team, but the hottest team,” Blair said. “Sometimes that’s all you have to be is hot during tournament time, and you move on.”
A&M beat Arkansas in the regular-season finale 66-53 on March 3. Carter had 24 points, but didn’t play the final 9:01 after injuring her finger in a fall.