FAYETTEVILLE – They say you can’t compare scores and bank on results.This time you could. The nationally No. 21 Arkansas Razorbacks women’s basketball team that routed Oral Roberts, 96-64 on Nov. 14 in Fayetteville seven nights before the hosting Tulsa Golden Hurricane edged same city rival ORU, 67-65 trounced Tulsa, 91-41 Wednesday night at Walton Arena.
As Matilda Willis, Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman coached some excellent Arkansas teams going 67-27 piloting the Lady’Backs from 1981-1984 and good Kansas State teams going 80-66 from 1984-89.
Obviously this TU team, dropping to 3-7, doesn’t match to Mossman past squads. Especially against Mike Neighbors’ Razorbacks holding Tulsa 17-points a game scorer Kendrian Elliott to two points rolling 9-1 into Sunday’s 2 p.m. game against Northwestern (La.) State at Walton.
“We’ve tried to make somebody else on their roster their star of the game,” Neighbors said. “We don’t want the person usually leading their team in scoring being interviewed on radio or their conference’s player of the week.”
Arkansas took command with a sluggish offensive but good defensive first 14-2 first quarter, Neighbors said, then accelerated offensively and never looked back.
“I kind of think we thought it was a 7 o’clock tip-off,” Neighbors joked of the offense since the game tipped off at 6 p.m. “But we really got it going in the second half. Defense carried us in the first quarter and the offense took it from there.”
The Razorbacks led, 41-16 at half. They led easily even with four substitutes logging 10 minutes each, playing nearly as much as star starters Chelsea Dungee, 14 minutes, and Amber Ramirez, 16 minutes and matching the 10 first-half minutes of starting hot-shooting senior guard and former Conway Wampus Cat Alexis Tolefree.
For the game, Tolefree led all scorers with 20 points in 21 minutes while hitting 6 of 10 3-pointers.
“The ball found her and she earned it,” Neighbors said of Tolefree scoring freely on a night when he employed 11 ranging from 6:48 to 24:48.
Tolefree said she found the ball “because my teammates found me. All my teammates found me.”
Freshman Erynn Barnum of Little Rock Central career high double-doubled with 14 points and 12 rebounds off the Arkansas bench while Razorbacks reserves A’Tyanna Gaulden scored 14 points and Rokia Doumbia grabbed a dozen rebounds allowing deferring stars Dungee and Ramirez to do as much cheerleading as playing with the game well in hand.
“We got everybody some valuable, valuable game time in the middle of December,” Neighbors said.
Especially freshman forward Barnum and junior guard Gaulden, it seemed.
“She (Barnum) has been doing it to us in practice for a year and a half,” Neighbors said. “She’s a gamer. You give her that many minutes she’s capable of getting a double-double. She has such good hands and feet and about the time you think she’s going to fall or travel or lose the ball she makes it and gets fouled.”
Tolefree also said Barnum took her practice to the game.
“We know she can do it in practice,” Tolefree said. “She finally did it in a game and you all saw it.”
Gaulden said of Barnum: “It’s crazy to see how much she’s improved.”
Neighbors cited Gaulden improving off her knee injury last season and with her point guard skills.
“Her knee is better,” Neighbors said. “Her 14 points is great but the thing I told her I liked is she had four assists and no turnovers and that’s a ratio she hasn’t had. That allows us to have a 2-headed monster at the point with her and Makayla (Daniels, the freshman starter).”
Though only hitting 2 of 11 first-half treys while TU shot 0 for 8, Arkansas outshot TU 17 of 38 to 8 of 32 from the first-half field, shot 5 of 6 from the first-half field to TU’s 0 for 2, and first-half outrebounded TU, 29-16.
For the game Arkansas outrebounded TU, 52-35 and off turnovers outscored TU, 21-4 committing eight turnovers to TU’s 19 and outscoring TU 33-0 on threes, (11 for 32 to 0 for 16).