FAYETTEVILLE – Upsetting still reigning national women’s basketball champion and then nationally No. 4 Baylor back on Dec. 6 was one great Arkansas thing.
But to upset the 11-time national champion, undefeated nationally No.3 Connecticut Huskies, is greater, says Arkansas senior Chelsea Dungee.
Dungee should know. For while her 22 points supported teammate Amber Ramirez’s 23 beating Baylor, 83-78 in December’s nonconference game at Walton Arena, Dungee’s 37 points Thursday led Coach Mike Neighbors’ 19th-ranked Razorbacks to Thursday’s 90-87 nonconference epic over Hall of Fame legend Geno Auriemma’s now 10-1 Huskies before a covid-19 restrictions maximum 4,000 fans Thursday evening at Walton Arena.
It wasn’t necessarily her points, but her teammates and crowd and the opponent indelibly stamped in Dungee’s memory.
“Oh, this one is!”Dungee said when asked to compare. “It was much more! Much more exciting. What a huge opportunity it was today. I can’t find the words. I’m so happy for our program and our state. Amber (Ramirez scored 22 including 5 off 10 treys while Dungee hit 4 of 5 treys) had a great game. Our whole team had a great game. We were connected on defense, connected on offense. It was just a huge win!”
A win apt to keep on giving for a 12-6 Arkansas team not only for NCAA Tournament consideration and seeding but a variety of other long range while after celebrating they return to SEC play hosting Auburn Sunday at Walton.
“It’s got to pay dividends in some form or fashion,” Neighbors said. “I had 370 text messages so there were a lot of people watching. So it’s got to have benefits in recruiting and bringing 4,000 fans maybe some times later in the year when we need them.”
And to see senior Dungee in her final Arkansas season.
“There are performers and then there are performances,” Neighbors said. “That kid with the big stage was crucial. Chelsea got us off to a great start and when she does that we usually feed off her.”
Hanging touch just down 43-41 at half, the Razorbacks stunned UConn with an 11-0 run opening their 31-19 third quarter.
“We won the game in the middle half,”Neighbors said.
Well not entirely. UConn would take one last lead.
But this time these Razorbacks that lost last second shot SEC heartbreakers to Texas A&M and Georgia would not be denied.
“They went up by one and we got it back up to five,” Neighbors said. “Our kids were resilient today.”
But they proved resilient beforehand, Neighbors said just volunteering in the ashes of a lopsided loss at SECn power South Carolina to volunteer taking on mighty UConn as the substitutes for SEC foe Vanderbilt compelled to abandon the season because of too many covid-19 related absences.
They had to ben resilient Thursday with Paige Bueckers scoring 27 for UConn supported by Evina Westbrook’s 19 and 16 by Christyn Williams, a Little Rock native and alum of Central Arkansas Christian.
Makayla Daniels scored 11 for Arkansas while center Taylah Thomas grabbed a surprising game-high seven rebounds.
Arkansas at its best is a subpar rebounding team and UConn among the best. But the Huskies only prevailed, 35-29 on the boards.
“Being outrebounded by only six,”Neighbors marveled. “You could go to Las Vegas with that line and be a billionaire with that bet.”
Kind of like woman’s basketball betting beating UConn and Baylor in the same season.