Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Given Arkansas’ abysmal 28-28 first-half while shooting but 10 for 38, the Razorbacks women’s victory over underdog Jackson State on Sunday could not be called toll free.
Calling it Tolefree would be accurate, though. With Conway’s Alexis Tolefree scoring 14 points during the 10-minute third quarter, including eight during a 20-0 Arkansas run starting with a Tolefree three, Arkansas blew out the Tigers, 76-57 at Walton Arena.
Coach Mike Neighbors’ Razorbacks complete the non-conference schedule 11-3. They open SEC play hosting No. 8 Mississippi State, now 12-1 and the reigning national runner-up, in a 6 p.m Thursday SEC Network televised tip-off at Walton.
First-year Razorback Tolefree, a junior transfer guard from Jones County (Miss.) Community College, tallied a team high 17 points. She hit 5 of 10 treys recovering the Razorbacks from making but 2 of 21 first-half treys.
Chelsea Dungee, despite 0 for 8 on treys, scored 13 for Arkansas while senior guard Malica Monk of North Little Rock scored 11.
Jackson State’s Tigers of the SWC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) fall to 4-7.
Jackson State’s Marneisha Hamer, scoring a game high 21 points, tallied the third quarter’s first basket for a 30-28 lead at 9:53 before Tolefree’s trey at 8:51 commenced the 20-0 Razorbacks run.
“That three got me going but defensively is what really got me going. Tolefree said. “‘My defense led to offense and team wise our defense led to offense. We got a lot of stops which led to open transition and we started knocking down shots and got going.”
Just like Neighbors assured them at intermission, Tolefree said.
“Coach definitely said something about being 2 of 21 from the 3-point line,” Tolefree said. “But he also said all the shots we took are pretty much the same shots we make in practice. ‘So keep shooting and they’ll eventually fall.”
Neighbors postgame said that first half Arkansas’ 2 of 21 first-half threes were launched off “19 really good looks.”
Struggling with shooting often leads to struggling in most everything, Neighbors said but if there is one adjective to describe this team it’s “resilient.”
“We found a way to wrap up nonconference,” Neighbors said. “As a whole I’m happy with our nonconference season and ready to move on in league play.”
The last move started with Tolefree’s treys.
“When she started making a couple of threes then Mal (Monk) could get to the lane,” Neighbors said. “She makes a couple of threes and we start tipping balls we hadn’t been trying to tip. Our traps were better. We’ve got four or five kids that can ignite us and she’s one of them. To be great, we need somebody like her or Chelsea at the (3-point) arc. It’s been Chelsea. Today it was Lex.”
Tolefree was asked about Thursday’s game with Mississippi State playing against fellow former Conway Wampus Jordan Danberry. While Tolefree was at Jones Community College, Danberry was a Razorback in 2015-2016 and six games the next season under former Arkansas Coach Jimmy Dykes before transferring in December to Mississippi State.
“It will be interesting,” Tolefree said. “That’s my buddy so it will be a fun matchup there. I plan on playing hard no matter what. We feel really good heading into SEC play. We’re doing a lot of things people didn’t think we could do this year.”