NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt locked up visiting Arkansas on Thursday and won its SEC opener 54-51 at Memorial Gymnasium.
The Commodores (10-5, 1-0 SEC) never trailed in a game in which they held Arkansas to 28.4 percent shooting and its lowest point total of the season.
Vanderbilt took a 44-39 led into the final 10 minutes and Arkansas couldn’t get any closer than within four points until Emrie Ellis’ layup with 2:52 left made it a 50-47 game. Sasha Goforth closed the gap to 51-49 after her layup with 23 ticks on the clock.
But Vandy made its free throws done the stretch to preserve the victory to give head coach Shea Ralph a win in her SEC debut.
The Commodores hit the road to travel to Mississippi State (10-4, 1-1) for a 2 p.m. affair Sunday.
Vanderbilt took an early 9-5 lead Thursday thanks, in part, to five points from Iyana Moore. The Commodores went 4-for-4 from the line in the opening period, held Arkansas to 21.4 percent shooting from the floor and forced six turnovers as they enjoyed a 13-7 advantage going into the second quarter.
Sacha Washington’s layup to start the second stanza put the Commodores ahead 15-7. Four minutes later Alexander’s jumper kept the Razorbacks at bay and down 21-14.
Arkansas went nearly 4 1/2 minutes without a made field goal until Amber Ramirez made a 3 to cut the score to 21-17. Alexander answered on the other end with a triple of her own to push the margin back out to 24-17.
Elauna Eaton drained back-to-back 3s to get the Razorbacks within 29-25 going into the break.
Vandy held Arkansas to 26.5 percent shooting over the first 20 minutes and forced eight turnovers. The Dores also recorded six assists on 10 made shots.
Alexander extended the Vanderbilt lead to 37-27 less than four minutes into the second half with a layup. The Razorbacks crawled back to within 40-35 on a Goforth layup at the 2:32 mark and then within 42-39 on Goforth’s layup a minute later.
But Vandy got a Demi Washington layup just before the buzzer making it 44-39 to set up the final and decisive quarter.
Goforth scored 17 to lead the Razorbacks (10-5, 0-2) while Ramirez added 15. Arkansas was also held to just 51 point earlier this season in a loss to Central Florida.