BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas finished off its five-game pre-Thanksgiving slate unblemished Monday night with yet another women’s basketball victory on Native American Heritage Month Appreciation Night at Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks (5-0) downed the University of Central Arkansas 81-67 before 4,200 fans at Bud Walton Arena to give the team its third win in as many NAHM games.
Saylor Poffenbarger and Taliah Scott each had 18 points to lead all five Arkansas starters in double figures while Samara Spencer added 16, Maryam Dauda 14 and Makayla Daniels 11.
“With that group, I was really, really pleased with how we managed it, how we attacked,” Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors said. “The balance is when we are at our best, obviously. I know that we have got that, but it is good to see it on display in one of these.”
Jade Upshaw led UCA (2-2) with 16 points and Randrea Wright 14, Kinley Fisher 11 and Bree Stephens 10 for the Bears, who scored the first half’s last 12 points to cut an Arkansas 20-point lead down to 41-33 at intermission.
The Razorbacks would race out to a 62-43 lead heading into the final quarter.
“First of all, you have to weather the storm when you play them,” noted UCA first-year head coach Tony Kemper, who has been an assistant for both the schools’ men’s and women’s teams earlier in his career. “They are going to fire enough shots that you are going to face runs.
“So I told our team that we were going to some timeouts to try and mess with rhythm when they got it. So we tried some to try and change what they had going on…We made more shots, i can tell you that.”
The game featured Arkansas wearing special Nike Turquoise N7 uniforms, the national anthem sung in Cherokee by Ella Mounce and a special halftime dance performance by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Razorback sophomore Carly Keats, a Native American from Choctaw, Miss., averaging 7.5 points per game this season, played 11 minutes and had 2 rebounds on Monday night.
N7 is Nike’s shoe brand collection that honors and embodies the values, stories and diversity of Indigenous traditions and craft.
Profits from a few N7 games around the country each season provide funds for Inter Tribal Sports (ITS), a nonprofit organization based on campus that promotes organized athletics, wellness and leadership programs among tribal youth.
San Diego State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are among other schools that host N7 games.
“(Arkansas assistant coach) Lacey (Goldwire) of reaching out and starting this and then to become the actual N7 game this year, it takes a lot of work, a lot of preparation and obviously having Carly on our team and our roster.
“We had people come in and do storytelling the last two days. We use every bit of shoot around today to listen to stories. We had India Lewis’ family – Brandy and Macy came in with their kids – and talked about India’s history here and how much she loved being a Razorback. it was very moving. i think we all learned a lot from it.
“…Mak summed it up better…She said you can’t just wear the jerseys. This group went and spent an entire day in Oklahoma, over in Tahlequah doing community service. I am not talking about a couple of hours. I am talking about a full day, painting, working, scraping paint. I think that is the really, really cool thing.
The Razorbacks are 3-0 this season and 14-0 overall against in-state teams since a University of Arkansas ban was lifted in 2019.
Arkansas will return to action Friday in Florida when it faces Wisconsin in a 1 p.m. game at the Elevance Health Women’s Fort Myers Tournament.
The Razorbacks will also play Saturday at SunCoast Union Arena against either Marquette or Boston College at either 4 p.m. or 6:30.
Photo by John D. James