Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
UA women snap losing streak to Mississippi State
Arkansas guard Chelsea Dungee (center) takes a shot in the lane Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, as she collides with Mississippi State guard Jamya Mingo-Young (left) during the first half of play in Bud Walton Arena. Visit nwaonline.com/210212Daily/ for the photo gallery.
FAYETTEVILLE — Senior Chelsea Dungee topped 2,000 career points, and Destiny Slocum topped her season-high to help No. 18 Arkansas finally knock off Mississippi State on Thursday in Bud Walton Arena.
Dungee and Slocum combined for 48 points to lead the Razorbacks to the 86-80 victory. The Bulldogs had won 10 in a row against Arkansas, with the Razorbacks’ last win coming in Fayetteville on Feb. 19, 2012.
Slocum poured in a game-high 26, but the graduate transfer had to leave the game for a stretch in the second half after injuring her left hand.
She returned early in the fourth quarter to help the Razorbacks fend off the Bulldogs. She said the issue was with a hand that’s bothered her much of the year.
“It was a little painful, but our trainer took care of it and taped it up, and when I came back honestly I feel like the adrenaline was carrying me,” she said.
University of Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors acknowledged he wasn’t sure whether Slocum would return.
“It didn’t look good,” he said. “I just said to Chelsea ‘Hey, don’t worry about your fouls. You've got to do what you've got to do to win this game.’ And I thought she got real aggressive.”
When Slocum left the floor, it was Dungee who stepped forward. The 5-11 guard, who leads the SEC in scoring, scored 15 of her 22 points in the second half. The two combined for 17 in the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State Coach Nikki McCray-Penson said the addition of Slocum to an already seasoned team this season makes the Razorbacks formidable.
“She’s savvy. She’s crafty with the ball,” McCray-Penson said of Slocum. “Pick and roll is what she does. She knows how to pick you apart.
“They are much better than they were last year, and she’s a big part of that. Chelsea Dungee’s in great shape. They are just a veteran team now, but they added a piece in Slocum, who is one of the best point guards in the country.”
Neighbors said his team played like a squad that has lots of seniors and been in many tough games.
“You didn’t see any panic,” Neighbors said. “I thought there was a lot of poise because we have been there.”
Amber Ramirez chipped in 12 points for Arkansas.
Rickea Jackson scored to get Mississippi State within 71-69 with 4:45 left, but Dungee responded with a three-point play. A driving layup by Makayla Daniels later pushed the Arkansas lead to 78-72.
Myah Taylor’s basket with 1:26 left pulled the Bulldogs within 81-78, but Slocum answered with a driving layup to push the lead back to five.
The Bulldogs had a chance to tie, but Aliyah Matharu’s 3-pointer with 21 seconds left missed. Dungee rebounded, was fouled and made two free throws to put the game out of reach.
Taylor led Mississippi State with 22 points while Matharu added 17. Jackson chipped in 14, and Jessika Carter, who fouled out late, had 11.
The Bulldogs stayed in the game thanks to 12 3-pointers while Arkansas managed just five. But the Razorbacks held strong while rebounding against the bigger Bulldogs. Arkansas was only outrebounded 31-27 after getting crushed by Texas A&M 46-18 on Sunday.
Neighbors liked his team’s response in that area.
“To be within four [of a team] that has that type of size and that type of athleticism, I felt like that was where the game was probably won,” he said.
The duo of Carter and Jackson helped Mississippi State slice a 13-point halftime deficit to four after three quarters.
The Razorbacks (15-7, 5-6 SEC) were held without a field goal for more than four minutes as the Bulldogs went on a 12-1 flurry to get within 53-51 on JaMya Mingo-Young’s shot off the glass with 4:25 left in the quarter. Arkansas responded and led 62-58 after three quarters.
Mississippi State (8-8, 3-5) fell out of The Associated Press Top 25 poll earlier this week for the first time in almost seven years. Covid-19 issues by opposing teams have limited the Bulldogs to just 14 games — the fewest by any SEC team besides Vanderbilt, which chose to end its season early because of the pandemic.
The Razorbacks, who led by as many as 14, settled for a 48-35 halftime lead thanks to 17 points from Slocum on 7 of 9 shooting. Arkansas took advantage of 13 first-half turnovers by Mississippi State for 15 points, and the Razorbacks were a perfect 11 of 11 from the foul line.
The Bulldogs trailed most of the first half, but stayed relatively close behind strong 3-point shooting. They average just six made 3-pointers per game but hit seven in the first half. Taylor accounted for a team-best 11 first-half points, including three 3s.
Slocum tallied 12 first-quarter points as the Razorbacks used a 22-5 run to lead 26-16 after a quarter.
Arkansas gets a week off from SEC play after the Texas A&M game was moved up one week. The Razorbacks will host Ole Miss next Thursday for a 7 p.m. tip.
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