The No. 21 Arkansas women’s basketball team completed a four-game sweep of in-state opponents Sunday, closing out a gritty Arkansas State team 77-63 behind a lockdown defensive performance.
In the continued absence of senior guard Makayla Daniels, sophomore Jersey Wolfenbarger notched her third consecutive start and wasted no time, knocking down a corner 3-pointer for the first Razorback points of the game.
That proved to be a tone-setter for Arkansas, because it could not be stopped during the first quarter. The Hogs scored 24 points during the period, good for their second highest first quarter total of the season.
After struggling from the 3-point line in the first, the Razorbacks came out of the quarter break looking to attack the rim. They scored almost exclusively from the paint, scoring 14 straight from there before Wolfenbarger hit the first Arkansas triple of the quarter to close out the half with a 43-35 lead.
“That’s what they were giving us, so we had to take advantage of it,” Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors said. “I thought (redshirt senior forward Erynn Barnum) was phenomenal, (redshirt freshman forward Maryam Dauda) was unbelievable. I do feel like we probably could have thrown it in there every single possession and maybe good things would’ve happened, but that’s not gonna help us beat South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee or Creighton.”
Barnum continued what had been a quietly dominant game, opening the third quarter with a pair of finishes through contact to bring her point total to 14 and the Arkansas lead to 12.
Immediately following Barnum's basket, senior guard Chrissy Carr was involved in a physical play which resulted in a lengthy review and a technical foul against Arkansas State. Carr went to the line and knocked down both technical free throws.
After receiving the ball because of the technical foul, Arkansas took advantage, scoring a contested layup to conclude an 8-0 run to begin the third quarter.
“Everybody comes out with a lot of energy after halftime,” Wolfenbarger said. “The team that can respond the quickest and get the game started is typically the one that has the momentum the rest of the game. With us scoring those first eight points, it was really good for the momentum.”
After a long back and forth, the Red Wolves went on a run of their own, stopping the Razorbacks from scoring a basket in the final three minutes of the quarter to narrow the gap to 60-51.
The fourth quarter started slow with a two-minute scoring drought for the Razorbacks, but a 3-pointer by Carr seemed to take the lid off both baskets. Over a one-minute span, the two teams went 4-4 from the field, including two Arkansas State 3-pointers to cut the deficit to six.
“I thought all of the momentum shifted to them,” Neighbors said. “I thought (guard Izzy) Higginbottom got them going in transition a couple of times, and we lost her. I think overall we did a good job on her, forcing her to take 17 shots to get 19 shots, but she created some other catch-and-shoots for some of her other teammates.”
Down just eight with five minutes to play, the door remained open for Arkansas State until sophomore guard Samara Spencer slammed it shut. She scored eight of Arkansas’ final nine points, including a pair of deep 3s to close out the game.
After improving to 12-0, the road ahead looks challenging for the Razorbacks. The next stop is in Omaha, Nebraska, where they will take on the No. 16 Creighton Blue Jays. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network and stream live on the ESPN app.
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