Arkansas uses another big second half, rolls Jackson State

By: Paul Boyd
Published: Sunday, December 30, 2018
Arkansas guard Alexis Tolefree dribbles the ball during a game against Northwestern State on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Walt Beazley, Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas guard Alexis Tolefree dribbles the ball during a game against Northwestern State on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas women’s basketball team endured another poor shooting first half, but the Razorbacks lit it up in the final two quarters to put an exclamation mark on their nonconference schedule.

The Razorbacks responded with a 20-0 third-quarter run after Jackson State took the lead to start the second half en route to a 76-57 win over the Lady Tigers on Sunday afternoon in Bud Walton Arena.

Junior transfer Alexis Tolefree sparked the second half barrage, hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the run and finishing with a team-high 17 points. The Conway native said the team’s defensive intensity helped fuel the scoring barrage after Arkansas was an icy 2 of 21 from 3-point range in the first half.

“We got a lot of stops, which led to open transition, and we just started knocking down those shots,” said Tolefree, who hit five 3-pointers in the game and 4 of 6 in the second half. “We just got going. We just have to pick up our defense from the start and have that same kind of energy coming out at halftime from the start.

“We’ve got to play 40 minutes instead of 20.”

The Razorbacks (11-3) applied the knockout punch in a span of less than five minutes in the third quarter.

Maneisha Hamer scored inside seven seconds into the second half to give Jackson State (4-7) a 30-28 lead. But Tolefree connected on a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Razorbacks the lead for good 31-30 with 8:43 left in the third quarter. She scored 11 points by herself in the 20-0 run — finishing it with a 3-pointer for a 48-30 Arkansas advantage.

Chelsea Dungee and Malica Monk also each scored in double figures with 13 and 11, respectively. Dungee also finished with a game-high seven steals.

Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said the team’s poor shooting in the first half led to problems in other areas.

“When you don’t make shots, that leads to poor ball-screen defense. It leads to poor effort on rebounds. It leads to poor body language in timeouts,” Neighbors said. “It’s just the way it is.

“But again, we’ve got a team that’s going to be resilient in whatever’s thrown at them. Fourteen games, we’ve found different things we’ve needed to do to come back and have a good quarter, a good period or a good 5-to-8 minutes and found a way again to wrap up nonconference.”

Neighbors also acknowledged when Tolefree warmed up from the perimeter, it also helped in other aspects of the game.

“When she started making a couple of threes, then Mal could get to the lane,” Neighbors said. “She made a couple threes, we start tipping balls that in the first half we weren’t trying to tip. Our traps were better. I think we’ve got four or five kids that can ignite us. She’s one of them.

“We can be good a lot of different ways, but to be great we need somebody like her or Chelsea to be great at the arc and today it was Lex.”

TIP-INS

• Arkansas hit 10 of 16 3-pointers in the second half to finish 12 of 37 (32 percent) for the game after the awful start.

• Hamer led all scorers with 21 points for Jackson State.

• The Lady Tigers outrebounded the Razorbacks 49-40, but committed 28 turnovers.

UP NEXT

The Razorbacks open Southeastern Conference play by hosting No. 8 Mississippi State at 6 p.m. Thursday in Bud Walton Arena. The Lady Bulldogs (12-1) rolled over Louisiana-Lafayette 104-36 on Sunday.

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