RazorbacksSports

UA women escape with 84-80 win over Nebraska

Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Down 15-2 with 3:30 left in the 10-minute first quarter, the Arkansas Razorbacks women rallied past, lost the lead, regained it and finally shucked the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 84-80 Tuesday night at Walton Arena.
Tuesday’s triumph vaults Coach Mike Neighbors’ Razorbacks to 9-3 going into Friday’s women’s game at Tulsa against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
Though Nebraska is just 5-6, Neighbors said beating the Big Ten team that advanced to last season’s NCAA Tournament and this season has played nationally esteemed Louisville, Drake, Miami, Creighton and Washington State and beat Kansas is “a big win.”
“Anytime you get a NCAA Tournament team from last year with their number of returning starters and the expectations they have it’s really big for the resume,” Neighbors said.
It must have seemed all the bigger considering the hole Nebraska’s quick start dug before Arkansas climbed to finish the first quarter trailing 15-10 and even seize a 27-26 lead during the second quarter before trailing, 36-31 at intermission.
“Our kids were very resilient being down 13 and finding a way to battle back,” Neighbors said.
Nebraska Coach Amy Williams wasn’t surprised with the Razorbacks resurgence.
“We knew Arkansas was a good team and it was only a matter of time before they started making the shots they were missing,” Williams said.
Razorbacks Chelsea Dungee, 1 for 6 with three first-half points, and Alexis Tolefree, the junior guard from Conway shooting 0 for 4 and scoring zero first -half points, certainly made shots in the second half that they missed in the first.
Dungee, scored 20 second-half points for game high 23.
Tolefree reeled a spree of threes to score all 13 of her points in the second half.
Senior 4-season letter-winning guard guard Malica Monk of North Little Rock ascended Arkansas’ career 1,000-point club while scoring 16, eight each half, Tuesday.
“It means a lot,” Monk said of scoring 1,000, with 635 scored in a season and 12 games under Neighbors after her first two years under former Arkansas Coach Jimmy Dyes.
“I moved them one spot over,” Neighbors said. “Just put them in a different spot on the floor and I think they lost them two straight times. We put Alexis at the top and Chelsea along the baseline and they made some nice passes to each other and Chelsea hit the corner three and then Alexis hit one and it just opened the floodgates.”
When those Arkansas floodgates open, the rush usually comes in the second half, Dungee said.
“We’re a great second half team,” Dungee, the sophomore who redshirted last season transferring from Oklahoma, said. “Being down 15-2, we realized we still had over 30 minutes left. We just knew we had to buckle down and we stuck together.”
Individually, Dungee’s second halves mostly exceed her first half.
“That’s been a trend. My first halves are going to come. Alexis, too. We believe in Alexis and she went out there and did what we believe.”
Senior 4-season letter-winning guard guard Malica Monk of North Little Rock ascended Arkansas’ career 1,000-point club while scoring 16, eight each half, Tuesday.
“It means a lot,” Monk said of scoring 1,000, with 635 scored in a season and 12 games under Neighbors after her first two years under former Arkansas Coach Jimmy Dykes. “I did a lot of it last year with the help of Coach Neighbors and my teammates of course trusting and believing in me. It’s not about me but my team, also.”
Junior guard Jailyn Mason scored scored 11 and dished four assists as did Monk.
Junior center Kiara Williams of Little Rock Central tallied 10 points with a game-high nine rebounds. Her two free throws with five seconds left put the 84-80 verdict irrevocably ahead of any halfcourt heave or other Nebraska miracle finish without an Arkansas foul.
A collective Arkansas effort got Nebraska 6-5 shot-blocking center Kate Cain, three shot-blocks including an early one sparking the 15-2 run, to foul out with 7:19 left in the game and log only 17 total minutes.
“One of our keys was to play defense without fouling,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said. “And Kate only playing 17 minutes changed a lot of what we like to do defensively.”
Dungee, 5-11, said she had to adjust her shot against Cain but minus her 6-5 presence, “it made it easier to score for everyone.”
However the Cornhuskers bounced back without her.
Dungee’s scoop shot and one fouled out Cain with Arkansas up, 66-57 with 7:19 left.
Sam Haiby, Nebraska’s scoring leader with 16 off the bench, drove for Nebraska’s last tie, 79-79 at 1:18 and last lead, 80-79, sinking one of two free throws at 1:04 before Dungee’s baseline drive put Arkansas up 81-80 with 43 seconds left and elapsing on Nebraska missing two shots while Dungee, 1 of 2, and Williams, 2 of 2, hit the free throws to ice it.

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