FAYETTEVILLE — After former Conway Wampus Cat Alexis Tolefree scored 35 points and rallied the Razorbacks women from down 13 with 5:35 left in regulation to an 85-81 overtime SEC victory at Missouri last Sunday following her 17 points in last Thursday’s 66-48 SEC victory at Alabama, Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors assumed she would be named the SEC Women’s Player of the Week.
She wasn’t. Not even SEC Co-Player of the Week.
The SEC Office in Birmingham, Alabama, named LSU’s Khayla Pointer SEC Player of the Week after she scored 18 and 24 in LSU’s 59-58 SEC victory over Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and 18 in a 77-68 SEC success at Florida.
“She should have been SEC Player of the Week,” Neighbors said before Tuesday’s practice prepping the nationally No. 25 Razorbacks, 18-4 overall, 6-3 in the SEC for Wednesday’s 7:30 SEC game at Walton Arena against nationally No. 1 South Carolina, 21-1, 9-0. “I’ll say that out loud. She should have been. We get two road wins and she averages 26 points a game, 13 in the fourth quarter of a huge comeback. We’ll make sure her teammates reward her here at practice.”
Neighbors said the second-year junior college transfer’s fourth quarter and overtime were particularly inspiring because she overcame some early defensive struggles.
“She hadn’t played great up to that point,” Neighbors said. “We were about to make some defensive changes but then she got going and it got contagious and everybody got going down the stretch. I think it’s a sign of growth for her. Last year, she would have had her head down instead of up. She was instrumental in bringing everybody back to together and finishing that run.”
Coach Dawn Staley’s No. 1 Gamecocks presumably will be conscious both of Tolefree and Arkansas guard Amber Ramirez.
“South Carolina will run really hard at her and Amber trying to limit their catch and shoot opportunities,” Neighbors said. “We’ll have to be really creative.”
A big Arkansas key would be getting Chelsea Dungee, averaging 17.9 points as Arkansas’ leading scorer on the season but shooting just 3 for 11 against Alabama and 2 for 18 against Mizzou, back to offensive form.
“We’ll just stick with her just like we did with Lex,” Neighbors said. “You keep calling her number. She had 18 attempts so that means we’re still being aggressive and she’s still being aggressive. We know it’s going to eventually catch back up. She’ll find her way out of it.”
Neighbors lauded Dungee for not letting her shooting slump affect her team outlook.
“She was celebrating (the comeback in Columbia, Missouri) more than anybody we had,” Neighbors said.