By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — In the middle matchup of a 3-consecutive-game run against in-state schools, No. 12 Arkansas made the relatively short drive to Pulaski County for a second season in a row to pick up another win, 80-70, against worthy mid-major Little Rock on Saturday at Jack Stephens Center.
Unlike last season when they defeated the Trojans by 33 points, this time the Razorbacks had a greater challenge while grinding out the victory as senior guard Chelsea Dungee scored a team-high 18 points to push the Razorbacks to their final winning margin of 10 points. Dungee was sizzling shooting the 3-ball, making 5-of-7 from distance as part of her 6-of-11 overall field goal performance. She also had 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block.
Despite being handled on the glass by the Trojans (36-26), the Hogs’ three-point shooting was vastly superior as Arkansas was 14-of-27 from 3 for 51.9%, while Little Rock was only 1-of-5 for 20%.
The Razorbacks (8-1) have won five consecutive games, including a 47-point home win over Central Arkansas in their previous contest played last Sunday. The winning streak includes an 83-78 home win over then-No. 4 Baylor in the SEC / Big 12 Challenge on Dec. 6. Next up for Arkansas is a third straight game against an in-state opponent as the Hogs will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Monday.
Little Rock (4-3) was also coming off a win over Central Arkansas — a 60-50 road victory on Wednesday — as the top-tier Sun Belt team also boasts wins over Memphis, Vanderbilt, and Western Kentucky.
Arkansas has now beaten Little Rock in back-to-back seasons in the Trojans’ backyard, which includes an 86-53 Razorbacks’ win on Dec. 21, 2019, at Simmons Arena in North Little Rock. Dungee also led the way in the runaway win a year ago with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
But the Hogs were challenged on Saturday and were outscored 19-12 in the second quarter as Little Rock pulled within seven points at the break, 38-31. The Hogs doubled their lead through 3 quarters and led by as many as 17 points, 67-50, on Dungee’s triple at the 7:55 mark of the 4th quarter. From there, Arkansas maintained a double-digit lead until the final minute when Little Rock pulled within 8 points, 78-70.
Senior guard Destiny Slocum had 16 points (13 in the second half), 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, and sophomore guard Makayla Daniels contributed 11 points (all in the first half) on 4-of-7 field goals, including 2-of-3 from 3, and 1-of-2 free throws, to go with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Senior guard Amber Ramirez scored 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting from 3 and 1-of-2 free throws. Little Rock native and sophomore forward Erynn Barnum finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds off the bench.
Little Rock was led by forwards Brianna Crane (game-high 27 points on 12-of-19 field goals and 3-of-4 free throws to go with 6 rebounds), Teal Battle (18 points and 5 rebounds), and Krystan Vornes (12 points on 5-of-9 field goal shooting and 2-of-3 free throws to go with a game-high 13 rebounds).
First-half stats looked like this: Daniels led Arkansas with 11 points, Dungee scored 9, and Barnum had 8. Battle led Little Rock with 11 points in the first 20 minutes and Crane had 8. The Razorbacks were 15-of-30 shooting (including 7-of-15 from 3) while the Trojans were 13-of-29 from the field (including 0-of-2 from 3). Little Rock won the glass (20-12) and made 5-of-6 from the foul line compared to Arkansas’ 1-of-2 total on freebies.