Playing Hog Ball
Lady ‘Backs down Wildcats in Challenge
FAYETTEVILLE — Though smaller than four of Kansas State’s five starters, Arkansas guards Chelsea Dungee and Alexis Tolefree chopped the Wildcats’ literally big Big 12 vs SEC Challenge down to the Razorbacks’ 81-72 winning size Saturday afternoon at Walton Arena.
Junior 5-11 guard Dungee scored 32 points while 5-8 senior guard and former Conway Wampus Cat Tolefree scored 18 of her 21 points in the second half. They advanced Coach Mike Neighbors nationally No. 23 Razorbacks of the SEC to
8-1 going into Wednesday night’s game against Tulsa at Walton Arena.
Neighbors noted it’s his first Arkansas first SEC triumph in the annual Big 12 Challenge into now his third season at the Arkansas helm.
“We finally got a win in the SEC/BIG 12 Challenge after not winning the last two,” Neighbors said. “A contrast in styles with them banging inside and us shooting from the perimeter and we came up with enough stops to get it done.”
And obviously, K-state Coach Jeff Mittie noted, more than enough points to get it done against his Wildcats.
Former Arkansas State Coach Jeff Mittie’s Wildcats fall to 4-4.
K-state starts 6-5 center Ayoka Lee and 6-4 forward
Peyton Williams and two 6-1 guards matching 6-1 Taylah Thomas, Arkansas’ tallest starter.
Both double-doubling, Williams, 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Lee, 15 points and 14 rebounds though running into second-half foul trouble, certainly played big with KSU dominating the boards 48-29.
But with KSU top 3-point shooters Angela Harris, even while scoring 16 points, and Christianna Carr a combined 2 of 13 on the Wildcats’ 3 of 24 treys, the Wildcats were strafed from afar.
Arkansas, 11 of 27 treys, outscored KSU 33-9 on 3-pointers with Dungee 5 of 13 and Tolefree 4 of 7 with three critical ones in the second half pulling Arkansas away after KSU’S one and only second-half lead, 42-41 at 6:40 in the third quarter.
Dungee’s 7 of 8 from the free-throw line led Arkansas’ 20 of 24 free throw shooting compared to KSU’S 11 of 16.
Turnovers really turned around K-state’s big rebounding bulge into scant advantage. Committing just nine turnovers to K-state’s 17, Arkansas outscored KSU 19-9 on points off turnovers.
Mittie wryly hinted that the Razorbacks’ heads shouldn’t swell because they plundered K-state.
“We’ve struggled with turnovers in an empty gym,” Mittie mused. “I don’t want to take away anything from anybody but we’ve struggled taking care of the basketball with nobody in the gym.”
He certainly gave Dungee and Tolefree their due.
“Dungee is very talented,” Mittie said. “I didn’t like the space we gave her (frequently fouling Dungee) in the second half and she rolls her way to the basket and forces the officials (to make a decision).”
Asked what opened up her 18-point second half after scoring three in the first half, Tolefree replied with two words.
“Chelsea Dungee,” Tolefree said. “They were trying to guard Chelsea and I ended up getting open shots. I happened to convert today.”
Tolefree didn’t give herself enough credit, Mittie said.
“Dungee is obviously talented, but I think Tolefree individually made some plays in that stretch,” Mittie said. “Tolefree really mixed her game up well. She got the teardrop going a little bit and got the deep three right in front of the bench. She really got it going.”
Dungee said, “When I drive and they collapse on me we’ve got great shooters in Amber (Ramirez, scoring nine points Saturday) and Lex. It definitely paid off.
Lex was shooting the ball well in the second half.”
Neighbors, Dungee and Tolefree all credited defensive coordinator’s Todd Schaefer’s game plan in offsetting KSU’S obvious rebounding advantage with forcing turnovers.
“They had one true (Harris) point guard,” Tolefree said. “The rest of them were not very good at dribbling. And we got out and ran and hit shots and got their 6-5 out of the paint.”
Neighbors said some unnoticed plusses were Ramirez’s seven rebounds and Dungee’s drive “taking it to Lee” for the K-state center’s fourth foul and also Arkansas center Taylah Thomas, five points and seven rebounds, offensively rotating outside to force Lee from defensively camping inside.
All of that helped Tolefree but nothing like Tolefree helped herself getting on a roll.
“We all know what it’s like when Lex sees one go in,” Neighbors said. “That little runner got her started and the change they made in guarding Chelsea and her finding Lex got it going.”
Arkansas guard Chelsea Dungee goes up for a shot in an 81-72 win over Kansas State Saturday in the SEC/BIG 12 Challenge at Bud Walton Arena. Dungee scored 34 points in the victory.