With the effects of a five-game road trip mixed in with the grind of upcoming final exams, the Razorbacks started slow out of the gate against North Dakota. But thanks to a big run sparked by Jones, Arkansas avoided disaster and came away with an 85-73 win in front of an announced crowd of 1,174 in Bud Walton Arena.
"For the past five games I've been in foul trouble and I've been frustrated, sitting out of most of the game," said Jones, a 6-foot senior post for the Razorbacks. "I just tried to stay patient and relaxed and tonight it came to me."
Held scoreless for the game's first 17-plus minutes, Jones finally broke through with a spinning layup with two minutes, 25 seconds left in the first half. Her first basket of the game would break a 27-27 tie and at the same time triggered a huge Arkansas rally.
After finishing off the first half on a 12-4 run, the Razorbacks (8-2) would come back from intermission with another 14 unanswered points. And much of it came from Jones, who scored 14 of her career-high tying 22 points during the 26-4 spurt.
"We know Whitney's strong inside and we know we need to get the ball to her," fellow senior Ayana Brereton said. "And Whitney does good every night, but tonight she did really good."
Despite the big effort from Jones — which included 10 rebounds and a career-high five steals — the overall performance by the Razorbacks didn't draw rave reviews from coach Tom Collen. With Arkansas' defense giving up too many easy shots to North Dakota (3-6) and its offense playing sloppy in spots, Collen didn't view the win as one of his team's best this season.
"I guess we feel good about being 8-2, but it wasn't a very pretty game," Collen said. "But sometimes you come off the road with five games in eight days and the week before finals, and my sense was we came in here not just physically fatigued but also mentally fatigued. The kids just came off the road, they're trying to prepare for exams and I just don't think their minds were on the game for 40 minutes.
"They had spells where they played hard. We challenged them at half and they came out the first five or six minutes of the second half and played hard and did what we wanted to do. But when we started subbing, we lost some energy. I mean Whitney Jones could score at will, but I felt like our other post kids needed to score a little better when we got them."
Arkansas is off the rest of the week for finals and will return to action on Dec. 18 against Delaware.
Jones Lifts Arkansas Past North Dakota
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