The first loss of the season for Arkansas’ women’s basketball team came with some positives. Arkansas scored 85 points against Arizona State on Sunday, a nearly unprecedented mark. No team has put up more points against the Sun Devils since the Oregon Ducks scored 98 on them almost three years ago.
The primetime slot at Bud Walton Arena featured a tightly contested matchup between the women of Arkansas and Arizona State, but it was the visitors who walked away with the 88-85 victory.
Arizona State entered the game as the No. 22 team in the country with a 1-1 record. The Sun Devils handled Incarnate Word in their first game but fell to the top-five ranked Baylor Bears 65-59 on Nov. 11. The team’s trip to Fayetteville was the first true road game of the season for ASU.
The Razorbacks won both of their first two games of the season, taking down Northwestern State in their first game, 98-53, and then stealing a win in Arlington when they beat UT-Arlington, 66-65, off of junior guard Alexis Tolefree’s buzzer-beater Nov. 14.
The two schools faced off last year as Arizona State dominated all aspects of that game, winning 89-43. This year’s contest proved to be a much different story.
From the tip-off, both offenses dominated, with Arkansas trailing 46-42 at the half. Tolefree led all players with 14 points through the first 20 minutes, which kept the Razorbacks within striking distance. Then, it was sophomore guard Chelsea Dungee who exploded for 16 points in the second half.
“After we settled in, I don’t think (their defense) really affected us,” Dungee said. “It came down to a shot they made and a shot we missed, not much more than that.”
Four different Razorbacks scored in the double-digits, including Tolefree with 22 points and Dungee with 20 points. The Sun Devils were led by junior forward Kianna Ibis with 20 points and also received 42 points from their bench.
Arkansas ultimately struggled to gain the lead. Despite four lead changes throughout the game, The Razorbacks were in front for only 22 seconds while ASU held the advantage for almost 37 minutes. ASU also out-rebounded the Razorbacks 43 to 35 and shot 11 more free throws, many of which came at the end of the game which prevented the Razorbacks from making a comeback.
“We played really hard,” Tolefree said. “We stayed together as a team, so I’m proud of our team and I look forward to what comes next because (losing) a three-point ballgame to the No. 22 ranked team makes me feel like we did pretty good.”
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors emphasized moral victories in the tight loss and was proud of his team’s performance, he said.
“(Arizona State) is a perennial NCAA Tournament team,” Neighbors said. “Our players executed, so there is no disappointment. It’s a good measuring stick for us to battle them that close. Our progress is good.”
Next up for Arkansas is a trip to Nashville where the Razorbacks will play three games in the Music City Challenge starting on Friday against Tennessee State.
Following the Tennessee State game, Arkansas will face Pittsburgh and Wisconsin on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. All three games will tip-off at 7:30 p.m.