Ethan Westerman is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has bachelor's degrees in journalism and marketing from the University of Arkansas.
Ranked Razorbacks go for 11th win in a row
Arkansas' Saylor Poffenbarger tries to get past Oral Roberts' Tirzah Moore on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — A ranked University of Arkansas women’s basketball team will take the court at Walton Arena tonight for the first time since March 2021.
Arkansas (10-0) hosts Lamar (4-3) at 7 p.m. in the third of a four-game homestand. The Razorbacks have started the season with 10 consecutive wins for the fourth time in program history and the first time under Coach Mike Neighbors. The hot start garnered a No. 21 ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll.
“Jumping in at 21, I think that shows you that a lot of people took a good hard look,” Neighbors said. “It also means people at the bottom of the poll lost. That’s the inertia of the poll that we talk a lot about. You know, I wish it was the last week of the season, but we’ll do everything we can do to keep challenging our team to stay ranked and stay in the national conversation.”
Redshirt freshman Saylor Poffenbarger was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week for the second straight time. The accolade came after she posted her first career double-double in the team’s 92-58 win over Oral Roberts.
“If you didn’t watch the game with a really critical eye you might not have caught it, but she played four offensive positions for us and she guarded all five defensive positions against Oral Roberts,” Neighbors said. “That just speaks to her versatility. I’m happy that the league recognized her.”
Senior guard Makayla Daniels, who has been a mainstay in the Razorbacks’ starting lineup since her freshman year, missed Sunday’s game due to injury. Neighbors labeled it as a “day-to-day” situation, and said her not starting was a “preventative” measure.
Jersey Wolfenbarger got her first start of the season in Daniels’ absence. The 6-5 sophomore guard had 12 rebounds and added nine points. Wolfenbarger also led the team with four blocks, the most by a Razorback this season.
“When you have a situation like that where you’re expecting a player to come back, it’s a good idea to do the thing that’s the least intrusive to your current team,” Neighbors said. “Jersey started a lot in the past, so I think she’s comfortable doing that. She obviously played with a lot of confidence, very comfortable. It could have been Rylee [Langerman], it could have been go big and play Maryam [Dauda]. We had a lot of options, but I felt like the least intrusive thing to our everybody’s role was to start Jersey.”
Lamar is in its fourth year under Coach Aqua Franklin, who was a standout at Texas A&M from 2004-08 under former Coach Gary Blair. Blair left for College Station, Texas, after becoming the winningest coach in Arkansas women’s basketball history (198 victories), a record he still holds. Neighbors was on his staff as director of basketball operations and sees Blair's fingerprints on Franklin’s team.
“I called Coach Blair last night when I watched my first Lamar film,” Neighbors said. “Aqua was a great player for Coach Blair on their national championship team. I don’t know if they call the plays the same, but I see a lot of Coach Blair’s influence. That’s a positive thing.”
Her team is led by a pair of guards, Sabria Dean (16.1 points per game) and Portia Adams (13.4), who lead the team in scoring. Neighbors said containing the duo is something his team knows is important.
“Those kids could certainly be on SEC rosters,” Neighbors said. “There’s no question in my mind, they could play at a lot of schools. Our kids have a healthy respect watching them on film.”
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