Frustrated Neighbors insisting on better Arkansas effort against Auburn

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2024-02-03 15:59 PM


After arguably seeing his team’s worst effort of the season on Thursday, Arkansas women’s basketball coach Mike Neighbors will be looking for his squad to rebound quickly late Sunday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks (16-7, 4-4) will host Auburn (14-7, 3-4) in a 5 p.m. game and will be trying to beat Tigers for a seventh straight time in a contest that will be televised by the SEC Network.

Coming off a 86-70 home loss to Alabama, Arkansas is asking his fans to wear pink for its Play4Kay Pink game and also having its National Girls and Women in Sport Day clinic at 4 p.m.

“I told them show up (against Auburn) and fight like the third lion at Noah’s Ark and it’s raining,” an understandably and noticeably frustrated Neighbors said after the loss. 

“So we’ll see. The sky is not falling,  but that effort was poor, it was disappointing and we had a good crowd for a late tip and we didn’t give them anything to cheer about until halfway through the fourth quarter and by then it was too late.

“It was too late to try and play hard then…You have got to do it when it when it is 0-0 and we just didn’t have it.”

Arkansas humbled Alabama 78-59 back on Jan. 4 with a dominant second half, but it was the Tide in charge from start to finish in the rematch.

“Their (the Tide’s) effort was noticeably different from the time before and noticeably different from ours,” Neighbors said. “It was glaring  and disappointing became it’s February  and it shouldn’t be that way.

“If you don’t play good, okay, fine. If you don’t shoot good, okay, fine. If you don’t do other things good, okay, fine. But if you don’t play hard.

“I just challenged them. I said ‘I don’t know why. We are not going to have a big meeting or a come to Jesus talk or whatever. But whatever it was has got to be bigger, it has got to be less important than whatever this team needs. Whatever the reason.”

Neighbors was both not surprised and flabbergasted to see his team’s lethargic performance on Thursday, which saw the return of freshman Taliah Scott (10 points on 3 of 14 shooting in almost 29 minutes of action) after missing six games due to a back injury.

“Saw it coming two day ago,” Neighbors said. “I did. I talk to (senior) Mak(ayla Daniels) about it. I said, ‘Mak, what is it? ‘I don’t know coach. Let’s find out.’ The next day, same thing. We saw it.”

“If we are having to coach focus and effort on February 1 against a team that we know what they are going to do, we’ve guarded it before and they didn’t run anything different,”  Neighbors said while shaking his head. “They ran it better, they ran it harder. They were much better in transition, they attacked the glass. They did everything.

“Again, give (Alabama head coach) Kristy (Curry) and her staff credit on what they did differently between the two games because they did a lot better job with their team than we did with ours.

“And I told the team, more often than not I come in here and take a lot of it and still will take all the blame because I could see it coming and I couldn’t get anything done about it. But I don’t profess to know what goes on in every 18 to 22 year old’s head. 

“But whatever it is, we have to get it fixed.”

Arkansas forward Saylor Poffenbarger who had her seventh double-double of the season with 23 points and 11 rebounds against Alabama, believes her team will do just that.

“How we come back is going to be everything for us,” Poffenbarger said. “We have continued to bounce back every other game and that shows we can survive in this league. I think we have everything it takes. We just have to be willing to have that fight and it’s just going to be a little harder this time.”

Auburn is coming off a 76-54 home loss to No. 1 South Carolina, which ended a two-game winning streak that included home wins over Alabama (78-65) and Georgia (67-49).

The Tigers’ head coach is Johnnie Harris, a former Razorback women’s assistant coach from 2004-2007, and the all-tine series between the two is tied 21-21.

Auburn’s biggest win this season was a 67-62 home on over defending national champion LSU on Jan. 14 before a record crowd of 7,720 fans at Neville Coliseum.

Senior guard Honesty Scott-Grayson had 21 points in that LSU upset and a career-high 31 in the loss to South Carolina.

“I was really proud of how we came out,” Harris said of the Auburn-South Carolina game. “ I thought we set the tone which we wanted to do. We guarded our tails off. We played hard, we were tough, we battled and that’s what I wanted to see. Really proud of my team for not quitting. We’ll have to build on the good things we did tonight.”

Photo by John D. James

(Last updated: 2024-02-03 15:59 PM)