UA women upset No. 15 Florida St.

Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors directs his team during a game against Murray State on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Fayetteville.
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors directs his team during a game against Murray State on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Fayetteville.

Going into its ACC/SEC Challenge game at No. 15 Florida State, the Arkansas women's basketball team knew defense needed to be its calling card.

The Seminoles entered the matchup scoring 88 points per game, good for 13th in the country, and all five starters averaged double-digit points. They had not been held to under 79 points in a game all year.

The Razorbacks (7-1) answered the call.

Behind strong defense, the Razorbacks erased an 8-point deficit late in the second quarter and soared past the Seminoles for a 71-58 victory Thursday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

Florida State (5-2) was held to 28.6% shooting from the floor -- well below its 42.3% mark entering the contest -- and was outscored 24-6 in the third quarter.

"Our players just executed," Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors said, "To hold that team to 28% -- with a 57% fourth quarter, mind you -- unbelievable. And then our defense led to offense.

"I thought we were very poised tonight. We got off to a little slow start, turned it over many times and [then] settled in. Our best performance of the year, obviously, inspired by all the good things happening back in Fayetteville."

The Seminoles grabbed a 24-16 lead with 3:40 left to play in the first half, but the Razorbacks ended the second quarter on a 9-0 run to grab a lead and momentum into the locker room.

Redshirt sophomore Saylor Poffenbarger buried a three-pointer at the second-quarter buzzer to give Arkansas a 28-26 advantage at halftime.

Poffenbarger broke the program's single-game record with 23 rebounds to go along with 13 points, 3 blocked shots, 2 assists and 2 steals.

She broke the previous record of 22 rebounds set by Shelly Wallace against SMU in February 1988.

"That is video game numbers," Neighbors said. "And 19 defensive [rebounds], that jumps off the chart at you. Her effort was great. She can play a lot of minutes. She's got a really good approach to it.

"She understands that's her role and she values her role. She knows her team is counting on it."

Arkansas opened the third quarter on a 16-2 run, capped with a three-pointer by freshman Taliah Scott, to blow open the game and take a 44-28 lead with 5:53 left in the period. Scott scored a game-high 24 points on 8 of 21 shooting.

"I think everybody felt like we were taking good shots," Neighbors said. "Everybody was saying to each other, 'Keep shooting. Keep going there, I'll find you.' I think weathering that little bit of a slow start like we've been talking about, a lot of that is how you react to things."

During the deciding stretch, guard Makayla Daniels, Poffenbarger and Scott each hit from deep. Arkansas was 12 of 31 (38.7%) from three-point range over the final three quarters.

"I think other than one or two threes, I was OK with all of them," Neighbors said. "If that's what people are going to give us, we're going to have to prove that we can make them. ... I think tonight it was just kind of what they were giving us. They were clogging the paint and forced us to throw it out. I thought we had some really timely ones."

Junior guard Samara Spencer was crucial for Arkansas early and kept the Razorbacks in the game with nine points in the first half when the team was struggling from the field. She finished with 15 points and became the 33rd player in program history to score 1,000 career points.

Spencer, who is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hit the milestone when she nailed a three-pointer to give Arkansas a 57-34 lead in the third quarter.

"I said, 'You realize for the rest of your life your [commemorative] 1,000-points ball is going to say at Florida State?' " Neighbors said, recalling a conversation with Spencer after the game. "She kind of got a little smile on her face."

Florida State threatened in the final quarter and drew within 60-48 with 5:37 remaining. Arkansas responded and grew its lead back to 18 on a Maryam Dauda layup.

Scott (24 points), Spencer (15), Poffenbarger (13) and Daniels (10) each scored in double figures, Dauda added 6 points and 6 rebounds, and Spencer led the Razorbacks with 6 assists.

Florida State was led by O'Mariah Gordon, who scored 16 points. Ta'Niya Latson added 14 points and Makayla Timpson chipped in 12. No other Seminole scored more than five points.

The momentum-building victory is something Neighbors said he hopes to see carry into Arkansas' game in Fayetteville against No. 2 UCLA. The Razorbacks are scheduled to host the Bruins at 1 p.m. Sunday. The game will stream on SEC Network-Plus.

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