If the Mike Neighbors era one day reaches the lofty levels Razorback fans dream about, you can look back at last night as a milestone moment.
Arkansas beat Tennessee 80-79 on a jumper by Malica Monk with four seconds left, sending its players into ecstasy. The last 28 seconds of the heart-pounding game featured three lead changes. The Lady Razorbacks, in the second year of head coach Mike Neighbors’ tenure, have surged to No. 4 in the SEC. Their SEC record is 3-2, with an overall record of 14-5.
It’s an amazing turnaround from last season, when the team won just 13 games, going 3-13 in conference.
This win is a “a big step for us,” Mike Neighbors said afterward. “It’s a domino we’ve knocked down and now we can go into more games like this with confidence, and be able to win clutch ones. That’s our fifth game that has gone down to the last possession — either needing to score, stop, or both. We’re growing up.”
It was only the second time, in 16 attempts, Arkansas had ever won at Knoxville in the SEC era (the first was in 2012).
The Lady Razorbacks came out of the blocks smoking behind 11 first-quarter points from junior Alexis Tolefree. Arkansas controlled the pace of the game to take a 40-31 lead into halftime.
The Lady Vols roared back in the second half and erased a 12-point Razorback lead, tying the game at 63 with 8:01 left.
A back-and-forth battle followed with Tennessee tying the game for the third time in the quarter, 76-76, with one minute on the clock. The Lady Vols made a free throw for the 77-76 lead, but Chelsea Dungee answered with a driving layup with 23 seconds. The Lady Razorbacks led 78-77.
The Lady Vols burned a timeout and got a break when Malicia Monk was whistled for a foul at the 11-second mark. Two made free throws gave Tennessee the 79-78 lead but Monk brought the ball up the court, made a move and pulled up for the game-winning dagger.
Malica Monk led the Lady Razorbacks 23 points in 36 minutes. Chelsea Dungee added 19 points and Alexis Tolefree finished with 16 points.
Tennessee (12-6) had been ranked as a Top 25 team until Monday, but is currently in a 5-game losing streak — its worst in decades. Still, while the Lady Vols aren’t quite a powerhouse this season, knocking them off on their home court — when their backs are against the walls — is no small feat.