Ethan Westerman is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has bachelor's degrees in journalism and marketing from the University of Arkansas.
Razorbacks win opener on Virgin Islands
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors is shown during a game against Tulsa on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Fayetteville.
The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team defeated Northern Arizona 82-73 in its Paradise Jam opener on Thursday night in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Arkansas (6-0) pulled away at the end of a tightly contested first half and never trailed in the game’s final two quarters en route to a victory. Northern Arizona held a lead for over 10 minutes and stretched it to as many as four points before the Razorbacks closed the second quarter on a 12-0 run. Samara Spencer hit a driving layup as time expired to give Arkansas a 38-29 halftime lead.
“That little rotation gave us a lot of energy going into halftime,” Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors said in a postgame radio interview. “We knew they were going to punch back. It’s a team that scored 100 points in its last two games, so you know they’ve got it in them. So, I thought that little group gave us a good lift there at the end of the second quarter, and it carried over into the second half.”
Arkansas forced 28 turnovers, including 17 in the first half. The Razorbacks scored 29 points off the Lumberjacks’ miscues. Neighbors said being disruptive on defense was a message preached to his team prior to the contest.
“We wrote ‘disrupt, deflect and defend’ on the board,” Neighbors said. “We wanted to be disruptive because they’re really hard to guard. When you let them run their stuff, you see what they did. They make a bunch of shots. We just didn’t want them to be able to get enough shots. They shot 76 but we got 98.”
Arkansas outscored the Lumberjacks by six in the third quarter, then withstood a fourth-quarter push to secure the win.
Spencer was electric for the Razorbacks, scoring 27 points off 10 made shots, including 3 three-pointers. The sophomore guard scored 16 of her 27 points in the second half, neutralizing the Lumberjacks when they began to go on a run.
“Because she did it in the first quarter, it’s hard to do it in the third and fourth quarter without fouling her,” Neighbors said. “I thought she played with a lot of poise, and we needed every one of those moments.”
Makayla Daniels added 18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists for the Razorbacks. Saylor Poffenbarger chipped in 13 points and hit two three pointers.
The win gave Arkansas its best start under Neighbors, passing the previous 5-0 mark by the 2019 team. It was also Neighbors’ 200th career win.
Arkansas will face Clemson at 7 p.m. Central today before wrapping up their three-day Paradise Jam stint against Kansas State at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.