The No. 18 Arkansas women’s basketball team narrowly defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 86-80, Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena.
It is the first time head coach Mike Neighbors has won against Mississippi State during his four years coaching for the Razorbacks. After the win Thursday, Neighbors’ team has now beaten all of the Southeastern Conference teams at least once.
It remained a close game throughout the first quarter, but the Hogs soon built a 13 point lead, going into halftime 48-35. In recent games, the third quarter has been the Razorbacks’ weakness, and the trend continued when the Bulldogs closed the gap to make it a four-point deficit.
The Razorbacks have been in that position several times this season, as the opposing team closes the gap and the game becomes a one or two possession match-up. Neighbors praised the Hogs for their control in the third quarter.
“There wasn’t a lot of panic,” Neighbors said in a postgame press conference. “I thought there was a lot of poise because we had been there.”
Senior guards Destiny Slocum and Chelsea Dungee had exceptional games, scoring 26 and 22 points respectively. Most of their points were crucial in the fourth quarter as Slocum and Dungee combined for 17 points to keep Arkansas’ lead.
“On offense I thought we executed pretty well and did what we had to do,” Slocum said in a postgame press conference. “I think on both ends we did what we were supposed to do to close out the game and keep our lead enough so they could not come back.”
Slocum injured her left hand in the third quarter when she landed on it badly. When she came back into the game, she said she felt the adrenaline carrying her so she was not in too much pain.
After Slocum went down and was out for a few minutes, Dungee took charge. Neighbors said he was proud of Dungee’s vigorous response in Slocum’s short absence.
“I told Chelsea when she went in, ‘Don’t worry about your fouls, you gotta do what you gotta do in order to win this game’ and I thought she got really aggressive,” Neighbors said.
The Hogs struggled to rebound efficiently last week against Texas A&M, but changed their mindset and came on strong against Mississippi State. They managed to notch 27 rebounds against the Bulldogs, giving them more opportunities to make offensive plays.
“I know (rebounding) was one thing we weren’t super happy with when we played Texas A&M and something we wanted to grow in and make our weaknesses strengths,” Slocum said.
It was Neighbors’ first time playing against Mississippi State head coach Nikki McCray, so the Razorbacks had no idea what to expect coming into the game, he said.
The Hogs’ overall record this season is 15-7, ranking 5-6 in conference play.
Arkansas’ next match-up will be against the Ole Miss Rebels at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18 at Bud Walton Arena. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.