The 16th-ranked Arkansas women’s basketball team climbed to 5-1 with an 83-78 victory against No. 4 Baylor on Sunday night in Fayetteville. The Bears are technically the defending national champions due to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament last season.
This was the Hogs’ first top-5 win under head coach Mike Neighbors and their latest since 2003 when they beat No. 2 LSU.
Arkansas spread the ball around and had four double-digit scorers. Redshirt senior guard Amber Ramirez led the Razorbacks with 23 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.
She was recognized as the College Sports Madness National Player of the Week for her performances against Baylor and the University of Louisiana Monroe. Ramirez has averaged 17.0 points while shooting 53% from the field and 63% from deep over her last two outings.
“I knew this was going to be a big game and we needed a lot of contribution from everybody,” Ramirez said in a postgame press conference. “Tonight, I stepped up to the plate when my team needed me.”
The Hogs went on a 13-0 run in the third quarter to take a 62-54 lead that they did not relinquish. Arkansas relentlessly attacked the basket looking to draw fouls.
The Razorbacks made 30 of their 39 free throw attempts while Baylor made just 12 of 18 attempts at the line.
“It was the difference in the game,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said of the teams’ free throw disparity.
A turning point in the game came when junior center Queen Egbo, who had picked up several fouls early in the competition, fouled out for the Bears with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“Our offense goes through our post players so we were scrambling at that point and it never got any better the entire night,” Mulkey said.
Egbo had 25 points and 11 rebounds in the Bears’ previous game against South Florida. The Razorbacks managed to hold her to just 6 points and 7 rebounds in 11 minutes played.
Neighbors confirmed that they had implemented a game plan to attack Egbo and create contact.
“Our guards did a good job just getting into her body,” Neighbors said. “It was a massive deal...you take an All-American candidate like that and she only plays ten minutes.”
The Razorbacks will travel to Dallas in a hopeful attempt to capitalize on the momentum of the upset against Southern Methodist University on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.
Despite the concern of overconfidence, Neighbors says he trusts his team to celebrate this win and still be prepared for the next game. He emphasized the importance of savoring the feeling that comes along with victories such as this one, especially considering a potential COVID-19 outbreak that could occur at any moment and wipe out the season.
“I told the kids to enjoy this one for a long, long time,” Neighbors said. “That 24-hour rule does not apply to games like this.”