WOMEN'S NIT:

Rested Arkansas not overconfident

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2019
Arkansas' Cheksea Dungee, right, and Malica Monk celebrate after an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference women's tournament Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Arkansas' Cheksea Dungee, right, and Malica Monk celebrate after an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference women's tournament Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

FAYETTEVILLE -- After playing four games in four days during a run to the SEC Tournament Championship Game, the University of Arkansas women's basketball team has enjoyed a lengthy break from playing.

The Razorbacks' first-round WNIT matchup against Houston at 7 tonight in Walton Arena is their first game in 11 days.

FIRST-ROUND WNIT GAME

Arkansas vs. Houston

WHEN 7 p.m. today

WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville.

RECORDS Arkansas 20-14; Houston 15-15

SERIES Arkansas leads 14-8

TICKETS $12 courtside, $5 adult general admission, $3 for 17-and-under general admission, free for UA students with I.D.

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

TELEVISION None

INTERNET ESPN-Plus

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS

HOUSTON

POS. NAME, HT., YR.;PPG;RPG

G Angela Harris, 5-6;Jr.;9.7;3.1

G Serithia Hawkins, 5-11;Sr.;9.0;7.3

F Dorian Branch, 5-10;Jr.;10.6;4.2

F Octavia Barnes, 5-11, Jr.;9.3;4.0

F Alyssa Okoene, 6-3;So.;6.7;5.3

COACH Ronald Hughey (59-94 in five seasons at Houston)

ARKANSAS

POS. NAME, HT., YR.;PPG;RPG

G Chelsea Dungee, 5-11; So.;20.2;4.8

G Malica Monk, 5-5;Sr.;12.4;2.2

G Alexis Tolefree, 5-8;Jr.;10.1;3.6

G Jailyn Mason, 5-9;Jr.;7.6;3.6

F Kiara Williams, 6-1;Jr.;6.4;6.5

COACH Mike Neighbors (33-32 in two seasons at Arkansas, 131-73 in six seasons overall)

TEAM COMPARISON

Houston;;Arkansas

67.8;Points for;72.6

67.8;Points against;69.7

-1.1;Rebound margin;-7.2

+0.8;Turnover margin;+5.6

38.9;FG pct.;39.2

30.1;3-PT pct.;31.4

63.4;FT pct.;72.7

CHALK TALK The Arkansas-Houston winner will advance to play the Alabama-Birmingham vs Troy winner with the day and site to be determined … Arkansas and Houston are meeting for the first time since the 1991-92 season when both were Southwest Conference members and the Razorbacks swept the series. They won 88-61 at home and 78-76 at Houston … The Razorbacks are 9-6 at home this season, including 3-5 against SEC teams … Houston is 9-7 on the road … Razorbacks junior guard Alexis Tolefree and Cougars senior forward Myyah West were teammates at Jones (Miss.) County Junior College … Arkansas is playing in the WNIT for the seventh time and have a 14-6 record. The Razorbacks won the WNIT title in 1999.

"That old rusted-rested argument," Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors said. "Every team's been different with me with every school I've ever been.

"The one thing I have learned is you need to be happy and healthy right now. So we've had a healthy amount of time off. A healthy amount of competition.

"We haven't gone long in practice, but we've gone extremely hard."

Neighbors gave his players three days off after the SEC Tournament so they would have at least a little bit of a spring break.

"It was great," Razorbacks junior guard Jailyn Mason said of the three-day vacation. "We had time to rest, and I think everybody took that very seriously.

"I don't think we'll be rusty. With these days between games we've had time to get our minds right and back into gear for practice and for the tournament."

The Razorbacks (20-14) were hoping to play in the NCAA Tournament, but they were among the last three teams left out according to the selection committee.

Arkansas' players said they'll turn their near miss for making the NCAA Tournament into motivation for the WNIT.

It's the first postseason for any of Arkansas' players.

"Us not making the NCAA Tournament, I think all of our mindsets are, 'We're going to show you that we deserved to be in it,' " Razorbacks junior guard Alexis Tolefree said. "We're looking to prove everybody wrong."

Neighbors said he's been told by several people that Arkansas was the final team left out of the NCAA Tournament.

Based on that, the Razorbacks should be a No. 1 seed in the WNIT, except the 64-team tournament doesn't have seeds.

No. 1 seeds in the men's and women's NCAA Tournaments play No. 16 seeds, and No. 1 seeds in the men's 32-team NIT play No. 8 seeds.

"There is no way Houston would be a 16 seed in this field," Neighbors said. "We're certainly not looking past them. It's obvious it's not a 1-16 matchup."

The Cougars (15-15) are No. 111 in the NCAA women's ratings -- one spot ahead of Georgia, which Arkansas lost to at home 80-72 and beat 86-76 at the SEC Tournament in Greenville, S.C.

Arkansas is No. 67 in the ratings.

Houston went 9-7 in the American Athletic Conference, including losing to national powerhouse Connecticut 81-61 at home and 83-61 on the road.

"When we show them Houston film, it will be very easy for them to get refocused," Neighbors said of his players. "Because if not, we won't play again."

The Cougars are 9-7 in road games.

"That's impressive," Neighbors said. "It means they've got a good team culture. It means they've got leadership. They certainly know their roles.

"They have our full attention."

Tolefree said Arkansas' coaches also have had the players' full attention since practice resumed.

"I feel like the coaches have prepared the practice plan perfectly for us to be able to come out [tonight] and be ready to execute how we're supposed to play," Tolefree said. "It was good to have that break. We needed that rest.

"But since we've gotten back in the gym, we've really been working the whole time. We knew we were going to play in the postseason whether it was the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT, so we've been back to business."

WNIT schedule

FIRST ROUND

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

Morehead State 71, Ohio State 61

Pacific 77, Fresno State 72

Pepperdine 91, Cal Baptist 79

TODAY’S GAMES

All times Central

North Carolina-Charlotte at VCU, 5 p.m.

Northeastern at Butler, 6 p.m.

Youngstown St. at Cincinnati, 6 p.m.

Alabama-Birmingham at Troy, 6 p.m.

Kent State at Green Bay, 6 p.m.

Rider at West Virginia, 6 p.m.

Seton Hall at Toledo, 6 p.m.

Furman at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m.

W. Kentucky at Miami (Ohio), 6 p.m.

High Point at Ohio, 6 p.m.

Stetson at South Florida, 6 p.m.

Hartford at Providence, 6 p.m.

IUPUI at Mid. Tenn., 6:30 p.m.

Prairie View A&M at TCU, 6:30 p.m.

Houston at Arkansas, 7 p.m.

Stephen F. Austin at Texas-Arlington, 7 p.m.

Dayton at Northwestern, 7 p.m.

N. Colorado at Wyoming, 7:30 p.m.

Denver at New Mexico, 8 p.m.

Idaho St. at Arizona, 8:30 p.m.

Idaho at Loyola Marymount, 9 p.m.

FRIDAY’S GAMES

Old Dominion at Villanova, 6 p.m.

NC A&T at James Madison, 6 p.m.

Drexel at Harvard, 6 p.m.

Sacred Heart at Georgetown, 6 p.m.

American at Pennsylvania, 6 p.m.

Northern Iowa at Minnesota, 6:30 p.m.

South Alabama at Lamar, 7 p.m.

Hawaii at Saint Mary’s, 9 p.m.

Sports on 03/21/2019

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