Senior guard Chelsea Dungee scored 37 points and the No. 19 Arkansas women’s basketball team upset No. 3 UConn 90-87 on Thursday in Fayetteville.
It was the Huskies’ first loss of the season, and the second loss for a top-five women’s program Thursday. Earlier, No. 2 NC State fell 83-71 in overtime at Virginia Tech.
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said the stature of 11-time national champion UConn is such that it’s hard for opponents not to feel like they’re trailing even before the game starts.
“There’s so many parallels to — it’s going to be such a bad cliché — but the movie ‘Miracle,'” Neighbors said, referencing the film in which the underdog U.S. men’s hockey team defeated the Soviet Union en route to the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics. “UConn, they don’t always get a chance to see their own blood, because they’re not in many close games. We just felt like if we could keep it close, and hang around … we have been in so many [close games].”
In fact, the Razorbacks just lost a heartbreaker Monday, when No. 22 Georgia won 77-75 on a last-second shot.
“These kids are kind of calloused,” Neighbors said of his players. “As long as [a loss] doesn’t tear you apart, it will build a little callous on you. I think we still feel we have stuff to prove.”
It was just the second meeting between UConn and Arkansas; the first was a Huskies victory in November 1998. Thursday’s game wasn’t originally scheduled, but both teams were looking to add a game after COVID-19-related cancellations. They announced on Jan. 20 they would play each other.
“I’m thankful they played this game,” Neighbors said. “[Geno Auriemma] could have very easily said no. But that’s why they’re a championship program, and we learned a lot from them today that will carry over.”
Dungee was 13-of-21 from the field and 7-of-10 from the free throw line. Arkansas had six players out because of COVID-19 protocols, but all of their starters were available. Guard Amber Ramirez had 22 points for the Razorbacks (12-6).
“It was one of those feelings … I don’t know the words. I’m just so happy for our program,” Dungee said. “I knew what a big opportunity it was for our team. I wanted to come at it with as much energy as possible to fuel our team. Our whole team had a great game. It was just a huge win.”
UConn was led by freshman Paige Bueckers’ 27 points. She did not play in the team’s victory over Georgetown on Saturday after suffering a sprained ankle in a win against Tennessee on Jan. 21. Evina Westbrook added 19 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies (10-1).
“I thought Evina was really good the whole game; that’s the best I’ve seen her play since she’s been at Connecticut,” Auriemma said of the first-year UConn player who transferred out of Tennessee. “Paige took over the game for a long stretch. When you’re trying to come back like that, you need more from more people. And we just didn’t have enough. But certainly those two were above and beyond what we needed them to be.”