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Long wait is over: Arkansas a 4 in first tourney since ‘15

by Paul Boyd | March 16, 2021 at 7:12 a.m.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE.Arkansas guards Chelsea Dungee (33) and Jailyn Mason (14) celebrate during the closing moments against Nebraska Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, during the second half of the Razorbacks' 84-80 win in Bud Walton Arena. Visit to see more photos from the game.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas women's basketball Coach Mike Neighbors and the No. 15 Razorbacks got to celebrate with a small group of fans inside Walton Arena when they heard their name called as part of the field of 64 teams Monday evening in the NCAA Tournament.

Arkansas (19-8) is a No. 4 seed in the Alamo region -- the highest seed since the Razorbacks were a No. 3 seed in 1991 -- and will take on Horizon League champion Wright State (18-7) at 1 p.m. on Monday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Neighbors got up from his seat in the first row of the arena and meandered around after the first two regions were announced, but he said it wasn't nervous energy at all.

"I hate being in the picture when they show the team, so I was making sure I was out of sight," said Neighbors, who spoke to the crowd after the announcement. "It was more just making sure we had all our T's crossed and I's dotted. More about the celebration and making sure everybody understood how cool it is and how rare it is for this to happen."

His timing was perfect. The Razorbacks' name popped up on the big screen minutes later to the delight of players and fans alike. It's the Razorbacks' first appearance since 2015.

It's been a long wait for senior Jailyn Mason, but she said it was well worth it.

"We were super excited with a lot of anticipation for today waiting for time to go by," she said. "But for me being here five years and finally making it in my senior year is extremely special and kind of a feeling that you can't really describe other than sheer joy."

Neighbors enjoyed the moment as well.

"Fun to see the name come across; fun to see the excitement on the kids' faces that were here," Neighbors said . "We had Alexis Tolefree on a phone call, a FaceTime. It was fun to see her excitement as well. Just a validation for a lot of these kids who decided to come to school here before NCAA Tournaments were a thing for us."

Neighbors knows a little bit about Wright State, too. At least its coaching staff.

Wright State associate head coach Tennille Adams is a former Razorback. She was part of the 1998 team that advanced to the Final Four and 1999 squad that won the WNIT.

Neighbors also knows Raiders Coach Katrina Merriweather and said her team won't back away from a challenge.

"They will play uptempo," Neighbors said. "They like to play fast. They're gonna be very, very well coached. They won a very tough league and the tournament so we know what we're gonna be facing.

"It'll be fun to see Tennille and Katrina, and I know their players, they won't be intimidated at all by the league we play in or our ranking. They will come ready to play in San Antonio."

Wright State lost back-to-back games to finish the regular season, but the Raiders won three in a row -- all by double digits -- to win the conference tournament.

They are led by junior guard Angel Barker, who averages 18.1 points per game and was named MVP of the league tournament. The Raiders only played one game this season against a team from a Power 5 conference, losing 82-59 to then-No. 24 Michigan in Ann Arbor on Dec. 6.

It will be Arkansas' 12th appearance in the tournament. The Razorbacks are 9-2 in opening-round NCAA Tournament games, winning nine in a row. However, they have not won more than one tournament game since the run to the Final Four in 1998.

There are a limited amount of tickets available for the NCAA first- and second-round games. Season-ticket holders and Razorback Foundation members who have interest in attending should contact the Razorback ticket center at (479) 575-5151 or


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