It was a monumental week for the Arkansas women’s basketball team.
South Carolina women’s basketball had not lost in the SEC Tournament since 2014, that is prior to Friday night when the Arkansas Razorbacks pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year.
The Razorbacks (20-14) played the No. 12 Gamecocks (21-9) earlier in the year on Feb. 3 and fell 87-79, but Friday’s meeting did not follow the same storyline as the Hogs moved into the semifinals with a 95-89 victory.
Not only had Arkansas lost to South Carolina a month beforehand, but the Razorbacks were winless against ranked teams since February of 2015 when they beat No. 24 Georgia at home. It did not seem to faze the Hogs, as for the second game in a row they raced to an early lead and did not relent for the majority of the game.
“We’ve been working toward this since the beginning of the year,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said. “There’s been a plan and a process and (our players) have really bought in and stayed hooked up.”
Sophomore guard Chelsea Dungee once again came up big for Arkansas, scoring 31 points for the second consecutive night while going 13-13 from the charity stripe. Senior guard Malica Monk also continued her stellar play by tallying 16 points, the 17th time she’s scored in double figures this season, along with five assists.
South Carolina guard Tyasha Harris, who is on the All-SEC Second Team with Dungee, scored 24 points, and Gamecock forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan scored a team-high 27 points.
The 95 points Arkansas scored are the most the Razorbacks have put up since their first game of the season against Northwestern State.
Following their back-to-back upsets against Georgia and South Carolina, Arkansas women’s basketball continued their hot streak with another upset win, this time over Texas A&M.
The Razorbacks played No. 15 Texas A&M (24-7) on March 3, losing the game 66-53, but just six days later Arkansas took down the Aggies, 58-51, holding them scoreless for the last six and-a-half minutes of play, going on a 17-0 run.
Before the SEC tournament, the Hogs had lost eight of their last nine games, leaving them with a slim shot at making it to the NCAA Tournament. After earning quality wins against Georgia, No. 12 South Carolina and No. 15 A&M, Arkansas has only helped its case to be in the March Madness bracket.
Sophomore guard Chelsea Dungee led the Hogs in scoring once again with 17 points, four rebounds and three assists. Junior guard Jailyn Mason was not far behind Dungee, contributing 16 points of her own. Defensively, the Hogs forced 21 turnovers for the game.
Sophomore center Ciera Johnson led the Aggies in scoring with 18 points. A major difference for both teams was the contribution of the bench. The Hogs had 15 points from the bench while the Aggies had zero as they left their starters in for the majority of the game, lacking depth to match Arkansas’ speed.
Championship Sunday pit the Hogs against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who had breezed through their first two games, and after producing three straight upsets, Arkansas had nothing left in the tank.
The Bulldogs routed the Razorbacks 101-70, winning their first ever SEC Championship. For Arkansas, the trip to the championship was the first ever in school history and gave Arkansas a shot at making it to the NCAA Tournament.
Chelsea Dungee was elected to the SEC All-Tournament Team after scoring the most points in tournament history, 103.
The NCAA Selection Show is Monday, March 18, during which 64 teams will be selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament.