Offseason questions come to the fore as Arkansas women's basketball season ends in Tulsa

Makayla Daniels and Maryam Dauda talk after a foul during the Arkansas women's basketball WBIT game at Tulsa. The Razorbacks lost 80-62 (Photo courtesy of Arkansas Athletics)

TULSA, Okla. — The Arkansas women’s basketball team was playing strong defense.

The Razorbacks forced turnovers and blocked shots. The zone appeared to be effective before a Tulsa three-pointer broke a 4:36 scoring drought.

Four minutes. Thirty-six seconds.

Disruptive defense and some less-than-stellar offensive moments from the Golden Hurricane led to nearly half a quarter without any points for the host. Arkansas found something that worked against Tulsa — and largely against what its own offense is good at. 

As good as that defensive stretch was, it came too late. The damage was done. The game was lost.

The aforementioned Golden Hurricane three-pointer brought its lead to 25 points. The Razorbacks' season ended with a whimpering 80-62 loss that was never close against a Tulsa team that plays a similar style to their own.

Arkansas never led and finished the season with an 18-15 record.

“It was a tough night for us, but I was proud of our kids for staying in there,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said. “All those kids are coming back. … The rest of the kids are building momentum.”

The Razorbacks and Golden Hurricane played in a behind-closed-doors preseason exhibition. What happens in those events is confidential, with players and coaches not being permitted to talk about them, but Tulsa coach Angie Nelp said she had seen her team grow from that point.

Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors didn’t have the same team Thursday as he did in that exhibition. Leading scorer Taliah Scott and leading rebounder Saylor Poffenbarger have both entered the NCAA transfer portal. Former 5-star recruit Jersey Wolfenbarger left the team shortly after the exhibition.

Makayla Daniels has now exhausted her eligibility and played her final game as a Razorback in Tulsa. 

Neighbors has faced scrutiny this season but has set a path forward for the offseason. The Razorbacks shunned the portal last season but will be stepping in it now. Neighbors will be attending the junior college national championship for the first time in 12 years.

He also said he’ll be building the roster around returning forward Maryam Dauda. That starts with the cast coming back and the transfers to join in the coming weeks. Arkansas State transfer Izzy Higginbottom was the first to commit.

“We need some depth and we need some shot makers,” Neighbors said. “We did not shoot the ball this year like we’re capable of. … I think [Dauda] continued to show that she can be a dominant force in a lot of ways, so we’ve got to put pieces that fit with her.”

Neighbors also talked about roster construction both before and after the Tulsa game. He said Arkansas collected talent this season, but it didn’t always fit. That goes back to the offseason plan: Building around Dauda and doing so through the portal.

“I’ve learned the value in collecting talent,” Neighbors said. “We had a lot of really, really talented kids that never really fit together as a puzzle. I’ll spend some time doing that, making sure each kid fits with what we’re doing and the kids we have around.”

Those are some of the questions surrounding the Arkansas women’s basketball program. The weeks ahead will provide ample answers.