Dungee turns 'chip' into big outing

By: Matt Jones
Published: Friday, March 8, 2019
Arkansas's Chelsea Dungee (33) drives against Georgia's Caitlin Hose (10) Jenna Staiti (14) and Stephanie Paul during the first half of a women's Southeastern Conference NCAA college basketball tournament game Thursday, March 7, 2019, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Arkansas's Chelsea Dungee (33) drives against Georgia's Caitlin Hose (10) Jenna Staiti (14) and Stephanie Paul during the first half of a women's Southeastern Conference NCAA college basketball tournament game Thursday, March 7, 2019, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

After being relegated to second-team All-Southeastern Conference earlier this week, Arkansas guard Chelsea Dungee admitted she had a chip on her shoulder for Thursday’s SEC Tournament game against Georgia.

“I just wanted to come out and play the best that I could and show everyone what I could do,” Dungee said.

Dungee scored 31 points to lead Arkansas to an 86-76 victory at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.

Alexis Tolefree added 13 points, Jailyn Mason and Kiara Williams 12 points apiece, and Malica Monk 10 points for Arkansas, which made 56 percent of its field-goal attempts.

The 10th-seeded Razorbacks (18-13) avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Bulldogs and advanced to a quarterfinal matchup with No. 12 and second-seeded South Carolina on Friday at 5 p.m.

“She’s an incredible player,” Georgia coach Joni Taylor said. “Our fear always is how we’re going to guard her. We give up size to her. If you put a post player on her, she’s going to drive by us.

“When we played at Arkansas, she had a really good night but we were able to contain their other players, then she struggled a little bit when they came and played us at home. For the third time we knew she was going to be really good. She put her team on her back, got them going, made shots and got to the free-throw line. What we did not do tonight was contain everyone else. They had five other players in double figures. What you can’t allow is for Chelsea to have 31 and then four other players have double-figure scores.”

Dungee made 10 of 16 field-goal attempts and 10 of 12 free throws. She also had two rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Dungee scored 15 points in the first half as Arkansas built a 48-35 halftime lead. The 48 points were the Razorbacks’ most points in a first half this season.

“I would have never dreamt she would have gone 10-for-16, 10-for-12 and played great defense for 36 minutes,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said. “That’s a heck of a performance and a heck of a game.”

Dungee’s omission from the All-SEC first teams voted on by league coaches and The Associated Press surprised some. In her first season of eligibility at Arkansas after transferring from Oklahoma, Dungee was second in the SEC in scoring with an average of 19.5 points per game. She led the league in made free throws.

Counting Thursday’s game, Dungee has scored 30 points or more four times this season - including a career-high 41 against Auburn last month - and has scored at least 20 points in 16 games. She is 77 points shy of the single-season school scoring record.

Neighbors said he tried to turn Dungee’s “chip into a boulder” against Georgia, which had won a pair of tight games against the Razorbacks in the previous five weeks.

“Ultimately I respect how hard it is to make the first team in this league,” Neighbors said. “There are only [five spots on the AP first team and eight spots on the coaches’ first team] for 14 teams, of which there are a lot of great players. It’s really hard to make the first team. But if you look at our team from last year and what we added, a lot of it was Chelsea.

“We went from losing 104-60 to Texas A&M to taking [this year’s] game to the fourth quarter. South Carolina beat us 90-42 a year ago. This year it was a one-possession game [late] at our place. If you take her off our team, we’re playing [on the first day of the tournament] and we’re probably going home.”

Neighbors said he wasn’t sure who he would take off this year’s first teams to make room for Dungee, but said he was sure she should have been included.

“She had a great season,” Neighbors said. “She had a first-team all-conference season and I think she backed it up with a first-team all-conference first round.

“She’s just that type of kid that you have to tell her, ‘Maybe you can’t do this,’ and she can. I built it up. I’m not going to tell you I didn’t. I used it to our advantage.”

The Razorbacks likely need to defeat South Carolina on Friday to have any chance at earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks won the earlier meeting between the teams in Fayetteville, 87-79, on Feb. 3.

Dungee scored 32 points against South Carolina (21-8) and Arkansas led the game by four points going into the fourth quarter.

With a loss Friday, the Razorbacks would stand a good chance to make the WNIT. Arkansas has not played in any postseason tournament since advancing to the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

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