Arkansas women rout Northwestern State in front of Elementary crowd
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ women’s basketball team opened its season on Friday with a 98-53 rout of Northwestern State at Bud Walton Arena.
The season opener was Elementary Day for Arkansas
(1-0). The game was played in front of 4,889 fans consisting mostly of elementary school students from throughout Northwest Arkansas.
The Razorbacks showed they are a considerably deeper ad more talented team than last season’s 13-18 squad.
Every available player played and none played longer than 21 minutes. Seven Razorbacks scored in double figures, starting with Kiara Williams’
10 points and nine rebounds for a near double-double to the game-leading 19 points by Alexis Tolefree, of Conway.
Tolefree had 13 points in the first half as Arkansas led,
56-27, at the break. She is a former Wampus Cat and a transfer from Jones Community College in Mississippi.
Taylah Thomas grabbed nine rebounds, Chelsea Dungee and Rokia Doumba scored
11 points each, senior guard Malica Monk scored 12 points and sophomore A’Tyanna Gaulden scored 16.
“Seven people in double figures,” Neighbors said. “I remember doing that only one time in Tecmo basketball back on Nintendo. That’s great balance.”
Gaulden redshirted last season as a transfer from Florida State. Dungee redshirted last season after transferring from Oklahoma.
The reinforcements allowed Monk and junior Jailyn Mason to play fresh for 22 and 19 minutes, respectively, on Friday. They averaged 34 and 33 minutes per game last season.
Mason has four rebounds, four assists and four points. She and senior forward Bailey Zimmerman both played off of the bench.
The depth indeed seemed a night and day difference from a year ago.
“That’s the word a lot of people have said, ’night and day,’” Neighbors said. “To have the confidence of not starting some people who have started and might Wednesday night (Arkansas’ next game at Texas-Arlington), there was no worry about. It’s like everybody knows my time’s coming.
“So, the depth is something we’ll continue to cultivate. You can’t talk about depth and then not play people roughly equal minutes. I’m not a coach that has done hockey lineups, five for five (which he did Friday), but I’m also old school enough not to change something that’s working. Quality depth is nice to have.”
“This is a much better Arkansas team this year with way more options and way more depth,” said Northwestern State coach Jordan Dupay. “Their speed and ability to get to the paint was a huge negative for us trying to defend Their ability to spread people out and create and take advantage of it is going to hurt a lot of people this year.”
Tolefree set the tone by scoring the game’s first points on a deep 3-pointer. She was 5-for-10 from distance in the game.
“She has always wanted to be a Razorback and we have confidence in her,” Neighbors said. “When you give a kid like that confidence to take the first shot of a season in a game for 25 feet … she stretches the floor and and now A’Tyanna and Mal have much wider driving angles. And you saw her make a couple of nice moves to the basket. She gives the depth of a threat on the perimeter.”
Tolefree relished her Arkansas debut.
“This was what I dreamed of since I was in the seventh grade,” Tolefree said. “Putting that Razorback jersey on is a big deal to me. Every game is going to be me going hard no matter what. We played good as a team and did everything that Coach had told us to do in the locker room.”