Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
UA women see big problem in matchup with Kansas St.
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors is shown during a game against New Orleans on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Kansas State presents a tall order for the No. 23 University of Arkansas women's basketball team today at Walton Arena.
The Wildcats (4-3) are led by 6-4 senior Peyton Williams and 6-5 redshirt freshman Ayoka Lee, who both average a double-double. They combined to go 17 of 17 from the floor in the Wildcats' victory over Incarnate Word on Tuesday.
Those two are obvious concerns, Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors said. The Razorbacks will work to keep the ball out of their hands, especially in the paint given Kansas State's overall size advantage.
Size was a big factor in Arkansas' lone loss at California two weeks ago. The Bears enjoyed a 49-32 advantage on the boards that included 18 second-chance points.
"If either one of their kids Williams or Ayoka get it where they want it, there's not a whole lot we can do except hope they miss, which they don't do very often," Neighbors said.
Kansas State Coach Jeff Mittie said the Razorbacks (7-1) make it tough on their opponents, too.
"They spread you out and shoot the three-ball really, really good," Mittie said. "With that and their ability to get to the free-throw line, they're tough to get a handle on. It's kind of pick your poison how you want to defend them.
"It's impressive what they're doing off the bounce and getting to the free-throw line."
The Razorbacks rank fourth nationally in free throws made (151) and 12th in three-pointers made (76).
Junior Chelsea Dungee leads the way for Arkansas, averaging 21 points per game. Mittie thought he was finished dealing with Dungee after she transferred from Oklahoma and out of the Big 12 to the Razorbacks.
"She's a handful," Mittie said. "She's a tough competitor. I love the way she competes. She wills her way to the basket. Just a tough kid all the way around."
He also knows a little bit about Amber Ramirez, the junior who transferred to Arkansas from TCU. She attended his camps beginning in seventh grade when Mittie was coaching at TCU.
"She fits so well at Arkansas," Mittie said about Ramirez. "The area she's improved in though is her fitness level and strength since coming out of high school. You can see it on film."
Williams, the first player to be named All-Big 12 in both basketball and volleyball, caught Neighbors' eye at U.S. team tryouts for the Pan American Games.
"I thought Peyton Williams might have been the best player at the tryouts," he said.
Neighbors said today's game will come down to a battle of size vs. speed.
"We'll try to run them in transition, and as hard as they are to guard on one end, we'll try to make it hard for them to guard us on the other end," Neighbors said. "It's probably going to come down to the team that can do the best at what they do offensively and then defensively finding a way to make the other team the most uncomfortable."
Sports on 12/07/2019
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