By Otis Kirk
Mike Neighbors coached against Chelsea Dungee when he was at Washington and she was a true freshman at Oklahoma.
Dungee went 6-for-12 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers totaling 16 points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Washington. Neighbors and Washington won the game 108-82 as Kelsey Plum scored 38 points, but it wouldn’t be long until the two were united in Fayetteville.
Neighbors coached one more game at Washington losing to Mississippi State in the NCAA Tournament and then he left for Arkansas soon afterward. Dungee opted to transfer from Oklahoma following a freshman season that saw her make the All-Big 12 freshman team in 2017.
Dungee redshirted at Arkansas in Neighbors’ first season. This season, Arkansas is 21-14 heading into Sunday’s second-round game in the WNIT. Dungee has scored in double figures in 32 of the 35 games. She scored 37 on Thursday night helping the Razorbacks upend Houston 88-80 in one overtime in Bud Walton Arena.
The 5-foot-11 Dungee played two seasons at both Preson and Sapulpa High Schools in Oklahoma. With Preston as a freshman and sophomore she helped lead the team to a state title averaging 25.9 points, 10 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. She scored 52 points on 18-of-25 shooting against Tulsa Rogers in her sophomore season. She was named the Gatorade Player of Year in Oklahoma as a sophomore as well as all-state and a member of the Oklahoma Super 5. She averaged 18.4 points and 4.7 rebounds her final season at Sapulpa. She led the USA Basketball’s U16 team to a gold medal at the 2013 FIIBA Americas Championships.
In 35 games thus far for Arkansas, Dungee is averaging 20.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. She has 54 assists, 46 steals and 14 blocks on the season. She is shooting 40.3 from the field, 34.4 from behind the 3-point line and 83.3 percent from the charity stripe.
This season, Dungee has had five 30-plus points in a game, a 41-point game and is first in SEC in free throws attempted (263) and first in free throws made (219). Against Houston, she was 15-for-17 from the charity stripe.
The Arkansas fans came out on Thursday night to support Dungee and the team. The scanned tickets were 3,021 and announced attendance of 3,689. However, both numbers looked low as it appeared more than 4,000 fans made it to Bud Walton Arena. It was a loud crowd as well.
“I want to thank the crowd for coming out,” Dungee said following the game. “That was a huge part of our win. The energy in overtime, how could you not have energy in a moment like that?”
Dungee gave Arkansas some breathing room with a conventional 3-point play with 3.44 remaining in overtime pushing the Razorbacks out to a 78-73 lead. They never trailed again.
“That’s just the energy boost,” Dungee said. “When you’re in overtime and you look up and you are up by five. You can’t do anything, but build off of that. The crowd got into it, we got into it. You just take that, embrace it and build on it.”
Point guard Malica Monk talked about what it’s like to play with player like Dungee.
“It’s pretty amazing to have Chelsea on our team,” Monk said. “You can put the ball in her hands and know she is gonna go get a foul. Everyone has trust in her out there, not just me. If it’s a close game we know we can get the ball to Chelsea, she is gonna get to the free throw line and make her free throws. It’s good to have a player who is pretty much unstoppable out there on the court. It’s really an incredible person to have a player like that on your team.”
Arkansas will host UAB on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the second round of the WNIT.