Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Dungee’s big night helps Arkansas to WNIT win
Image from Arkansas' 88-80 win over Houston Thursday March 21, 2019 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville during the first round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Chelsea Dungee has made big shot after big shot all season and that didn’t change Thursday night in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The 5-11 junior poured in a game-high 37 points to help the Razorbacks shake off a determined Houston team to notch an 88-80 overtime win in Bud Walton Arena in front of a vocal announced crowd of 3,689.
Razorbacks coach Mike Neighbors said having Dungee makes a coach’s job easier as Dungee’s big three-point play helped give Arkansas (21-14) some separation in overtime and turn the lights out on the Cougars.
“She’s just a killer,” Neighbors said. “That killer gene, there’s a lot of big-time scorers that don’t have the killer gene. She’s got that ‘get-me-the-ball,’ that Jimmy Chitwood gene, or whoever we want to reference.
“That makes you sleep good at night when you don’t have to be some guru, genius. Let’s move some people around and matchup.”
Dungee drove at the goal and powered the ball up for the basket and drew the foul. She made the ensuing free throw to put Arkansas up 78-73 with 3 minutes, 44 seconds left in overtime and Houston never got closer than three the rest of the way.
Houston obviously had problems containing Dungee all night long, making 10-of-19 field goals, including two 3-pointers. But she was also able to get to the free throw line and take advantage there, too. She made 15-of-17 from the line, and even Dungee said that’s a key to her game.
“I think getting to the free throw line so many times per game draws attention itself because that’s something each team wants to eliminate,” Dungee said. “I really think you just have to guard us fairly.”
Dungee did just that, drawing a foul in the final minute of regulation and making both free throws to tie the game at 73 with 19.2 seconds remaining and help the Razorbacks force overtime after a Houston 3-point miss.
Houston coach Ronald Hughey compared Dungee to Kobe Bryant.
“We called her a three-level scorer with four-point range,” Hughey said with a laugh. “She can go right, finish at the rim with a pull-up at 15 feet. She can go left, finish at the rim with a pull-up at 15 feet. She can shoot it at the regular 3-point line, she can shoot it four feet behind the 3-point line.
“It’s extremely difficult because she can create space for her shot. She can get into you and be able to get a stepback and she’s long enough at 6-1 to shoot over the top of the defense. So I saw why the SEC, watching all those game, had trouble with her.”
Senior Malica Monk said having a player like Dungee is special.
“You can put the ball in her hands and know that she’s going to go and get a foul,” Monk said. “Everybody has trust in her, not just me out there. Whenever it’s a tough game or a close game, we know we can get the ball to Chelsea and at any given moment we know she’s going to get to the free throw line and get a foul and, of course, make her free throws.”
Dungee broke Arkansas’ single-season scoring record, which was previously held by Shelly Wallace. She came into the game five points away from Wallace’s total of 692 and surpassed it with a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left in the first quarter. Wallace set the mark during the 1988-89 season.
Dungee knew about the record before the game but was only concentrating on winning and advancing.
"I wasn’t too concerned about it," she said. "I just wanted to play for my team. I wanted to get this win and make it as far as we can in this tournament."
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