Arkansas needs hoops win at Tennessee to enhance lacking Big Dance resume

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2024-02-12 15:12 PM


An Arkansas women’s basketball team that would be on the outside looking in if the NCAA Tournament started today will be trying to get a big win in to start the week against a Tennessee squad that’s projected to be in.

The Razorbacks (17-8, 5-5), coming off a heart-breaking loss, will visit the Lady Volunteers (14-8, 7-3) in Knoxville on Monday night in a 6 p.m CST game on  that will be televised by the SEC Network.

ESPN’s latest edition of Charlie Creme’s Bracketology on Friday had 9 SEC teams projected in the women’s version of the Big Dance with Tennessee one of the last eight teams in and Arkansas as as one of the last eight out.

Creme’s newest NCAA Tournament projections will be released Tuesday with east Friday’s having the SEC and ACC tied for the most of any league.

“They’re good mentally, we are 5-5 in the league and that’s an area where we have lived a lot of the time,” Arkansas head coach Nike Neighbors said of his team. “….There is no bottom in this league this year. There are some years, but not this year. 

“So there is not a game you can survive a four-minute stretch of awful or you will get exposed.”

That’s what happen when Arkansas coughed up a 10-point, fourth quarter lead at Florida last Thursday in what turned into an 85-81 loss in Gainesville.

The Razorbacks got a spectacular 26-point effort by graduate senior Makayla Daniels, 20 from Taliah Scott and Saylor Poffenbarger’s 15 points and 12 rebounds against Florida.

But Arkansas’ 19 turnovers, many coming in the opening and final quarters led to two big runs for Florida that combined to total 20 unanswered points.

“The turnovers that led to points are indefensible,” Neighbors said. “We weren’t great defensively anyway, but certainly not on the ones we had no chance. 

“I felt like that was what ignited both of their runs and when we did not do that, we scored 58 points in the middle. But we are susceptible to that and that’s who we have been.

“…Again, I don’t look at it as a blown lead even though that is easy to do. It is low-handing fruit. We fought, we got that lead. The fact that we couldn’t hold on to it is troublesome and it makes me wonder.

“But I also know that we got it (the lead) and if we didn’t quit when things happen, we just didn’t do it chronoilogically. Let’s go best to worst.

“Our worst clusters (together). Our good is really, really good. I just wish those clips would all be together.”

Tennessee  fell 72-56 at Alabama on Thursday night and has won 4 of its last 6 and 9 of its last 12 games.

The Vols are led by 6-2 senior preseason All-SEC selection Ricka Jackson (18.4), who was out for 8 games earlier in which her team went 4-4, and have gotten a boost lately from 6-6 senior center Tamari Key.

“Tamari Key is playing a lot now, too,” Neighbors said.  “She didn’t play a lot earlier in the year. And both of them are All-SEC performers from the past and they are back and playing so it’s a different Tennessee team. 

“Key presents a lot of issues on us getting around the rim. Rickea Jackson is a defensive matchup nightmare. If you put a little kid on her, she’ll post you up, and if you put a big kid on her, she takes her out to the perimeter.

“….She’s kind of one of those kids that you have to make her work for everything she’s going to get. You can’t keep her from taking shots or getting shots. 

“I’m glad we had the extra day because now with Key back and Rickea Jackson full speed, they have their full complement of player back and it is a different team than people saw in the preseason.”

Photo by John D. James

(Last updated: 2024-02-12 15:12 PM)