Arkansas women rout North­west­ern State in front of El­e­men­tary crowd

The Sentinel-Record - - SPORTS - NATE ALLEN

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.”

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