Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year twice.
Razorbacks go OT to defeat Cougars
Arkansas' Chelsea Dungee drives to the basket between Houston's Octavia Barnes (LEFT) and Angela Harris Thursday March 21, 2019 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville during the first round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament. Arkansas won 88-80 in overtime. The Razorbacks take on University of Alabama at Birmingham at home on Sunday.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas women's basketball team is still playing, but Houston didn't make it easy.
The Razorbacks beat the Cougars 88-80 in overtime on Thursday night in Walton Arena before an announced crowd of 3,021 in a first-round WNIT game.
Arkansas (21-14) advanced to play a second-round game at 2 p.m. Sunday in Walton Arena against Alabama-Birmingham, which beat Troy 93-89 on Thursday night.
"We finished really, really strong," Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors said. "Our kids were very calm and very clutch."
The Razorbacks were able to pull away in overtime after Chelsea Dungee hit two free throws to tie the game 73-73 with 19.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter and then they got a defensive stop.
"We really upped our energy in overtime," Arkansas senior guard Malica Monk said. "We weren't really playing our game.
"To know that we had a second chance to go out there and give it our all, it really upped our spirits."
Dungee, a sophomore guard who led the Razorbacks with 37 points, had a three-point play to give Arkansas a 78-73 lead with 3:44 left in overtime. Her driving basket pushed the Razorbacks' lead to 81-75 with 42.3 seconds left.
"I'm just proud of us," Dungee said. "We stuck together and pulled out the win."
Monk made a steal and converted a three-point play with 33.7 seconds left to make it 84-75.
Junior guard Alexis Tolefree hit two free throws with 12.7 seconds left to put Arkansas ahead 88-80 and clinch the victory.
"That team is fast," Houston Coach Ronald Hughey said. "My hat's [off] to Mike and what he's doing here.
"He has the kids believing. He's gotten them to fall into the roles they're in right now for their team to be successful."
Dungee hit 15 of 17 free throws -- making and taking more than the Cougars.
Arkansas hit 28 of 34 free throws, while Houston hit 11 of 15.
"It's what we do -- free throws, layups and threes in that order," Neighbors said. "I love free throws, I like layups and we'll settle for threes.
"I think you have to play in attack mode and over time I think it got them in foul trouble, it got them passive."
Hughey said he lobbied the officials unsuccessfully to call more fouls on the Razorbacks, who had 17 compared to 28 for the Cougars.
"We didn't expect the free throw discrepancy to be where it was," Hughey said. "We thought it would be a little closer. But it was a huge difference-maker."
Hughey said the strategy was to drive the ball on the final possession of regulation with the game tied, but Arkansas switched from a man-to-man defense and the Cougars settled for a three-point attempt by Dorian Branch, who missed with three seconds left.
The Razorbacks got the rebound to send the game into overtime.
"We got a wide-open look from one of the best three-point shooters in our conference," Hughey said.
Branch had hit 51 of 155 (32.9 percent) of her three-point attempts coming into the game, but she was 0 of 5 against the Razorbacks.
Arkansas junior forward Kiara Williams had 15 points and eight rebounds. Monk had 13 points.
Senior forward Octavia Barnes led Houston (15-16) with 19 points. Junior guard Angela Harris scored 16 points and sophomore guard Julia Blackshell-Fair had 15.
Houston played its seventh overtime game this season and fell to 3-4. It was the first overtime game this season for the Razorbacks.
The game had 13 ties and nine lead changes, but Arkansas never trailed in overtime after Williams' rebound basket put the Razorbacks ahead 75-73.
"The crowd got into it and we got into it," Dungee said. "You just take that and embrace it and build on it.
"I felt like our team was under control and we had it the entire overtime."
RECORDS Arkansas 21-14; Houston 15-16
STARS Arkansas sophomore guard Chelsea Dungee (37 points) and junior forward Kiara Williams (15 points, 8 rebounds). Houston senior forward Octavia Barnes (19 points).
KEY STAT The Razorbacks made 28 of 34 free throws.
UP NEXT Arkansas plays Alabama-Birmingham at 2 p.m. Sunday at Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
At a glance
Women's National Invitation Tournament
Morehead State 71, Ohio State 61
Pepperdine 91, Cal Baptist 79
Pacific 77, Fresno State 72
Arkansas 88, Houston 80, OT
Ala.-Birmingham 93, Troy 89
VCU 65, UNC Charlotte 52
Kent State 64, Wis.-Green Bay 59
Butler 89, Northeastern 72
Cincinnati 76, Youngstown State 62
West Virginia 83, Rider 43
Toledo 71, Seton Hall 65
Western Kentucky 67, Miami (Ohio) 63
Ohio 81, High Point 74
South Florida 84, Stetson 50
Virginia Tech 92, Furman 65
Providence 71, Hartford 54
Middle Tennessee 59, IUPUI 47
TCU 72, Prairie View A&M 41
Northwestern 74, Dayton 51
Texas-Arlington 60, Stephen F. Austin 54
Wyoming 68, Northern Colorado 60
Denver 83, New Mexico 75
Arizona 66, Idaho State 56
Idaho 79, Loyola Marymount 64
All times Central
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 (Calif.), 9 p.m.
Sports on 03/22/2019
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