BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
FAYETTEVILLE – Any hope that Little Rock had of leaving Bud Walton Arena with a win on Tuesday night seemingly went away soon after the Trojans put in the game’s first basket.
Arkansas responded with 15 unanswered points to begin a 23-2 run and dismantled the Trojans 77-36 in an in-state women’s basketball clash before an announced crowd of 2,606 fans.
Taliah Scott had a team-high 18 points and Maryam Dauda added a career-high 15 points and 7 rebounds as the Razorbacks (3-0) were able to play all 12 players on head coach Mike Neighbors’ roster.
“It was good to see everybody excited,” Neighbors said. “There was a lot of bench excitement and enthusiasm that we haven’t had because they (the first two games had) been last possession, last minute.
“I think if you had been in our film sessions, you knew it was much needed. Our kids have been very receptive to coaching so it was good to be able to have a few kids have some success and do those things that caused that excitement.
“…It’s good for everybody. When you look down there and Sam Spencer is trying to win the dance cam competition, you need that. You need to feel good about it.”
Arkansas moved to 6-0 against the Trojans and 13-0 against all in-state teams since 2019.
Carly Keats exploded with a quartet of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter while scoring 14 points overall while Saylor Poffenbarger chipped in 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Dauda, who has battled injury through her first two seasons, was dominant inside while going 6 of 9 from the field, knocking down her only 3-point attempt and both of her free throws.
Neighbors told her that Little Rock was starting five guards and she should indeed own the paint.
“Before we came out, Coach Neighbors came in and he was like, ‘Oh, they’re starting five guards,’” Dauda said. “I just knew having a 5-11 or 5-7 person guarding me, I just have to dominate in the paint.”
Neighbors decided to motivate his players with some props borrowed from Arkansas soccer coach Coby Hale and an assist from Razorback assistant coach Todd Schaefer.
“I’m not a big pregame, visual guy, but I did borrow a set of keeper gloves from our SEC champion soccer team,” Neighbors said. “…Coach Todd had talked about them getting batted balls and [using their] feet, so I jumped in there and said, ‘Hey, for every batted ball we get, it’ll go toward our end-of-the-year party fund.’ It kind of got our kids fired up.
“But Coach Schaefer had a really good game plan and I thought our kids were hooked up and executed it, for the most part, all game long.”
Neighbors made sure to use the right terms while talking to Hale, whose team won the SEC regular season title and is playing in the NCAA Tournament now.
“He told me ‘these keeper gloves’ and I think he was impressed I knew to call them keeper gloves and not a goal tender. I think he was most impressed by that. And I knew to call them batted balls.”
Arkansas had a whopping 34 turnovers in its first two games so Neighbors enlisted the help of assistant Amber Nicholas Shirey.
Nicholas Shirey is a former Razorback standout and one of the best high school girls players in the history of Arkansas while at Newark.
The Razorbacks cut their turnovers down to 11 on Tuesday with just three before halftime.
“I turned to the best ball handler in the history of our program, Amber Nicholas [Shirey], and told her, ‘You’re in charge to get us five minutes of ball-handling,’” Neighbors said. “The first day it took us about 12 minutes to get five good minutes…. Again, there’s never been a better ball handler in the history of our program, so let’s use her.
“It’s just like anything in coaching, what you emphasize the most, you’re probably going to get the most. So we really emphasized valuing the ball a little bit and handling it.”
Arkansas was of 27 of 65 shooting from the field, albeit a number skewered somewhat by the reserves hitting only 1 of the last nine shots taken.
“Shot selection is a year-long battle,” Neighbors said. “It’s one of those things…. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to being where we need to be, but…it’s better than it has been.
“I think we will get better at it as the next couple weeks go along. I hope we continue to see improvement every single game and not too many steps backward.”
Annemarie Barista led Little Rock (0-3) with 13 points.
The Trojans had 20 turnovers, shot just 24.6 percent (14 of 57) overall, were 3 of 13 from 3-point range and 5 of 8 from the free line.
Arkansas will travel to Jonesboro to face Arkansas State (1-1) in a Friday night game at 7 p.m.
Little Rock will return to action Saturday when it faces another SEC foe in visiting Alabama.
Photo by John D. James