The University of Arkansas women’s basketball program got plenty accomplished Sunday afternoon in the Bluegrass State.
The No. 24 Razorbacks (14-3, 1-1) ended a three-game losing streak this season, won for the first time since 2003 in Lexington, Kentucky and picked up a victoryfor only for the second time in its last nine matchups with Kentucky (8-6, 0-2), who was missing its leading scorer.
Erin Barnum and Saylor Poffenbarger had 17 points each and Makalya Daniels all 11 of hers in the second half as Arkansas led by as much as 27 points while routing Kentucky 71-50 at Memorial Gynasium.
Barnum added eight rebounds, a career-high seven assists and there blocks for Arkansas, who suffered a humbling 69-45 home loss to No. 3 LSU on Thursday.
“I thought we managed the day,” Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors said. “We got our butts kicked on Thursday, which seems like it was forever ago, by LSU. I was interested to see how we would travel. In this league, if you let your loss on Thursday affect you on Sunday, you are in trouble. I didn’t think we did that.”
Arkansas started the season 13-0 before losing to Oregon and South Florida in a pre-Christmas tournament in San Diego and then absorbing the loss to LSU in its conference opener.
Neighbors believes this win validated his decision to schedule several likely NCAA Tournament teams right before jumping into SEC action and showed some things about this season’s squad.
“We do have some balance and do have some maturity and that schedule was the right thing to do,” Neighbors said. “I do think that learning what it was like. I do think a lot of people are going to go 0-3 against…LSU, Oregon and South Florida.
“…But we scheduled it going into this league, knowing exactly six years now as a head coach in this league and another four years as an assistant, that if you are not ready on day one this league gobbles you up. And that scheduled can turn turn on you and that can from one (loss) to four or five to eight and your season is over before January is down.”
Kentucky, one of other SECs best program the past few years, was without star Robyn Benton, averaging a team-best 16.5 points per game.
“Without Robin, when we walked in and saw her in street clothes, that completely changed our game plan,” Neighbors said. “You don’t expect them to be without their leading scorer and I know that was a problem for them. It allowed us to set the tone vert early with her out of the game. She is a great player and has been tremendous player in our league for them.
“So I hope she gets back and soon as she can. I don’t know the extend of the injury. It was a surprise to us.”
Neighbors, whose team ripped off a 16-0 run early, used a movie reference to describe his team’s focus.
“I thought our kids didn’t fall for the open-ended tail pipe trick as they say in Beverly Hills Cop. I have been a part of a lot of teams when a best player doesn’t dress out and they would lose the game. So I glad that our veterans didn’t allow that to happen.
“I thought our defense was the difference early and our offense kind of caught up as the game went along.”
Blair Green led Kentucky, who lost 74-71 at Missouri on Thursday, with 14 points during game that the Wildcats made just 17 of 65 field goal attempts, including just 2 of 14 3-pointers.
“I mean, we got the shots that we wanted,” Green said. “They just weren’t falling, there’s days like that, but I think just coming right out the gates just being a little bit smarter and just running our offense. I mean, Arkansas really wants you to speed up and go down and they want to shoot it quick and they score a lot of points that way.”
“So going into the game, our focus was to just kind of run the clock down and get the best shot unless it’s a wide open layup or if someone has the green light to let it go. And I don’t really think we came in that focused on that and locked in and it is what it is, but we’re just going to have to learn from that.”