FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ nationally No. 21 Razorbacks women put the Northwestern State Demons through basketball hell Sunday afternoon at Walton Arena.
Fueled by a 24-0 run during the first half and tallying a 35-8 third quarter, coach Mike Neighbors’ Razorbacks of the SEC exorcised the Demons, 99-39.
Arkansas advances to 10-1 going into meeting coach Joe Foley’s University of Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans at 1 p.m. Saturday at Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock.
The Demons of Natchitoches, La. and the Southland Conference fall to 3-5.
Amber Ramirez, playing 21 minutes with no Arkansas starter playing more than Chelsea Dungee’s 23, led Arkansas with 21 points including 7 of 12 treys.
Neighbors acknowledged that Ramirez likely was on Razorbacks record scoring pace with her point a minute and seven treys had he allowed her more minutes.
“School record as many .. the corners were open and we kept finding her and she had that look in her eye,” Neighbors said. “But it’s a fine line, a school record is a good confidence builder but if you know that kid she wants to break that school record against a conference opponent somewhere down in the line in a close game. But every one of them (her 3-point attempts) looked good coming out of her hand, all 12 of them. But there will be a game when she goes Al Dillard (the off the bench 3-point shooting star for Nolan Richardson’s 1994 Razorbacks men national champions) on somebody when we really need every single one of them.”
Neighbors said he’s elated to have four starters, Ramirez, Dungee, Makayla Daniels and Conway’s Alexis Tolefree, to make five or more treys in a game this season.
“Is there anybody else in the country that’s done that?” Neighbors inquired. “I don’t know but I’m not sure anybody’s had four doing it on separate occasions. It’s been Lex lately and they came at her today and that left Amber open. When she gets her feet set and is confident I’ll take my chances on her making it that’s for sure.”
Neighbors said he played the starters more than they normally would have played in a rout like Sunday’s but coming off a clear the bench,. 91-41 rout over Tulsa last Wednesday and final exams between now and Saturday, Neighbors said he had to play his starters in the 18 to 23 minutes range to “keep them sharp playing against Joe Foley Saturday.”
Ramirez’s first two of her six first-half treys jumped Arkansas to an 8-0 lead after Makayla Daniels’ game-opening layup.
Surprisingly, given what would later occur, the Demons battled back demonically. They tied it 8-8, 11-11 and 13-13 before buried 24-0 in the Razorbacks’ run.
Neighbors played everybody on his bench before the 49-22 first half was completed and played the entire roster again in the second half.
One reserve used, senior center Kiara Williams is a past starter debuting Sunday for this season following a serious unrelated to basketball injury shortly before Arkansas’ Nov. 8 season-opening victory over New Orleans. Williams is healed from her injuries but needs conditioning to “get her lungs back .” Neighbors said.
Williams logged 8:55 Sunday with four points on 4 of 4 free throws and grabbed three rebounds and blocked three shots.
Neighbors said senior 3-year lettering guard Jailyn Mason, foot injury since preseason, and freshman center Destinee Oberg, preseason unrelated basketball injury, still cannot practice. For now Neighbors said he hasn’t yet decided if they’ll redshirt with just two games left before the Jan. 2 SEC opener against Texas A&M.
Collectively, post players Erynn Barnum, 14 points, and eight rebounds and two blocked shots, and starter Taylah Thomas, five points, six rebounds and a blocked shot, totaled 23 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Forward Rokia Doumbia blocked two shots, one that might have been heard from Walton Arena back to Doumbia’ hometown of Mali, Africa.
“We retired the Best Block of the Year Award at halftime,” Neighbors said. “If anybody tops that one we’ll give away two awards. It sounded more like a volleyball spike. It was one of those blocks you dream about making in a pickup game.”
Arkansas had five scoring double figures from reserve A’Tyanna Gaulden’s 11 points to Ramirez’s 21. Gaulden shot perfectly 2 for 2 from the field, 7 for 7 from the line and had four rebounds, two steals and six assists against one turnover.
Arkansas outscoring its opponent 48-10 in the paint and 28-2 off turnovers.
“Our defense was as good as it’s been all year,” Neighbors said.
Photos Courtesy of Crant Osbourne