Razorbacks open WNIT with win over Lady Techsters

Arkansas guard Samara Spencer (2) drives against Louisiana Tech guard Silvia Nativi (23) during a WNIT game Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Chrissy Carr scored 17 points, Samara Spencer notched her second career double-double and the University of Arkansas women’s basketball team never trailed en route to a 69-47 win over Louisiana Tech in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament opener Thursday night at Walton Arena.

Arkansas (22-12) grabbed a 3-0 lead 33 seconds into the game with a Spencer three-pointer, and the Razorbacks never relinquished the advantage. Coach Mike Neighbors’ team led by as many as 23 points and withstood multiple Lady Techsters runs for a wire-to-wire victory.

“You don't ever know how you're going to come off of a layoff, and how you're going to deal with coming out of that living room at my house when we don't get in [the NCAA Tournament],” Neighbors said. “You don't know until you play. So I’m really happy that our group took the lumps that we took in the SEC this year, but learned from them and played a played a good game against a good team.”

The Razorbacks raced to an 11-2 lead by the first media timeout, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers from Spencer. Despite a four-minute scoring drought, the Razorbacks ended the quarter ahead 15-3. The Lady Techsters were held to 1-of-15 shooting in the period.

“[Neighbors] said in the break going into the second quarter, he was like, ‘If they score three points for the next three quarters, then we win the game,’” Spencer said. “And it was easy math [and it was in] a joking matter, but it was true. Like if we just played how we were playing and held them to what we held them to, we would end up winning the game.”

Arkansas went ahead 19-3 in the second quarter’s early stages, but Louisiana Tech found its rhythm offensively. Midway through the period, the Lady Techsters used an 8-0 run to pull within 24-17. 

The Razorbacks then countered with a 9-0 run and closed the half leading 35-21.

Former Lonoke High School star Keiunna Walker led Louisiana Tech with six points at intermission. She ended the game with a team-high 16 points, playing in front of her own mini-fan base that made the trip to Fayetteville.

“I was really excited for her when the brackets were released, that she could come home and play in front of her fans and her family,” Louisana Tech coach Brooke Stoehr said while wiping away tears. “And, you know, Keiunna’s meant a lot. We're in a day and age in college athletics where you don't get to see a player stay somewhere for four and five years.

"She used her covid year, and she could have gone other places, but she was committed to our program and committed to finishing what she started.”

Louisiana Tech opened the third quarter with six straight points to pull within 35-27. Neighbors’ team closed the quarter by outscoring the Lady Techsters 13-10, highlighted by Carr’s third make from deep to put the Razorbacks up by double digits again.

The Razorbacks entered the fourth quarter ahead 51-37, then closed with a strong finish on both ends. After Louisiana Tech pulled within 53-40 off a pair of free throw makes from Walker, Arkansas ended the game on a 16-7 run.

Erynn Barnum scored 10 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter and became the third Razorback in double figures. Spencer stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds. Saylor Poffenbarger hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds in 28 minutes of work, and became the first Razorback ever to exceed 200 defensive boards in a season.

Arkansas will host Stephen F. Austin in the second round of the WNIT on Monday at 7 p.m.