Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – For a half the Ole Miss Rebels drilled, 85-55 by Arkansas in the Jan. 6 SEC Women’s basketball season opener in Oxford, Miss. played the Razorbacks about dead even in Sunday’s SEC rematch at Walton Arena.
But with a strong second half as Jailyn Mason, 10 points for the game with two particularly timely baskets, and A’Tyanna Gaulden, 12 points off the bench, joined the 33-point barrage by star sophomore Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas upped a 35-33 lead to a 73-61 victory snapping a 6-game losing streak.
It marked Dungee’s third game surpassing 30 points including a peak 41 in a Feb. 10 loss to Auburn at Walton. Sunday, the transfer from the University of Oklahoma hit 5 of 7 threes and sunk 12 of 15 free throws.
Junior college transfer guard Alexis Tolefree of Conway, 10 points and three shot blocks, did much to keep Arkansas afloat in the first half before the Razorbacks defense took second half control of the tempo and the game diminishing the Rebels from their first-half superiority in the paint.
“We didn’t change anything,” Dungee said of Arkansas’ second half. “It was just our intensity. Our energy defensively that I feel we didn’t have until after halftime.”
Hard to arrive intense knowing you waxed them 30 at their place?
“It can be a little difficult when you’ve played a team earlier in the season,” Dungee said. “And there can be emotion up or down. We had to realize that game is behind us and it’s a new game. Getting to the free throw line worked for me today and the 3-point line with my teammates doing their part driving and kicking it back looking for me and making the big pass.”
Second-year Coach Mike Neighbors’ Razorbacks now take 17-11, 6-8 overall and SEC records into their final SEC home game Thursday night at Walton against Missouri before closing their SEC regular season next Sunday at Texas A&M.
The Rebels of first-year Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin fall to 9-19, 3-11. They also have two SEC games to play, Thursday visiting Alabama and next Sunday hosting Tennessee, before the SEC Tournament in Greenville, S.C.
Even with Dungee’s heroics, the Razorbacks couldn’t get second half beyond a 3-point lead until Mason’s jumper at 5:07 in the third-quarter for a 46-41 lead followed by Tolefree’s and-one 3-point play.
And after Ole Miss whittled Arkansas’ 14-point fourth-quarter lead down to a Rebels’ competitive eight with 4:32 left, a Mason jumper again righted the ship for the Razorbacks’ winning finish.
“I’ve said about this Jailyn for years,” Neighbors said. “She’s one of those kids you just under-appreciate. That was the key in the second half. In the first half they had us playing on the perimeter and Jailyn got in the middle of that zone and really got us going with some buckets and good passes and good defense. And A’Tyanna (now three games returned from the leg injury that idled her for seven games) being back gave us a punch with Chelsea.”
Although with one SEC home game left Neighbors used Sunday afternoon
to celebrate Senior Day with seniors Malica Monk of North Little Rock, Bailey Zimmerman of St.Vincent, both inherited by Neighbors from previous Coach Jimmy Dykes, and second-year transfer Raven Norcross-Baker of Malvern.
He praised them all, Monk, the career 1,000-points scorer persevering despite a heavily bandaged injured hand.
“It’s hurting her so bad but she wasn’t about to not play on Senior Day,” Neighbors said. “You look at that X ray and I don’t know how she’s even catching the ball. I’m so proud of that kid and that she stayed, I told her how glad I was that she stayed and she said, ‘Me, too, Coach.”
Nate Allen Sports