FAYETTEVILLE -- Malica Monk smiles when asked about Arkansas women's basketball Coach Mike Neighbors' fast-paced offense.
"Oh yeah, I'm loving that, for him to say we need to play as fast as we can," Monk said. "That's nothing but a bonus for me. That's what I love to do is play fast."
At a glance
At Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
Game 1 Vanderbilt vs. Arkansas, 11 a.m.
Game 2 Florida vs. Ole Miss, 1 p.m.
Game 3 Kentucky vs. Alabama, noon
Game 4: Texas A&M vs. Game 1 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 5 Auburn vs. Tennessee, 6 p.m.
Game 6 Missouri vs. Game 2 winner, 8 p.m.
Game 7 Mississippi State vs. Game 3 winner, noon
Game 8 LSU vs. Game 4 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 9 South Carolina vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 10 Georgia vs. Game 6 winner, 8 p.m.
Game 11 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 12 Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 6 p.m.
Championship game, 3:30 p.m.
Malica Monk at a glance
Notable Leads Arkansas in scoring this season, averaging 15.9 points per game after averaging just 9.1 as a sophomore. … Scored in double figures in 27 of 29 games this season. … Has now started 56 games over the past two seasons. … Leads team in steals (1.55 per game) and assists (3.9) this season.
Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt
WHEN 11 a.m. Central
WHERE Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
RECORDS Arkansas 12-17; Vanderbilt 7-23
SERIES Vanderbilt leads 25-8
TELEVISION SEC Network
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
POS NAME, HT, YR PPG RPG
G Malica Monk, 5-5, Jr. 15.9 3.4
G Jailyn Mason, 5-9, So. 11.0 4.0
G Devin Cosper, 5-10, Sr. 14.1 5.8
F Bailey Zimmerman, 6-0, Jr. 4.3 3.3
C Kiara Williams, 6-1, So. 7.9 6.8
COACH Mike Neighbors (12-17 in first season at Arkansas, 110-58 overall in fifth season)
POS, NAME, HT, YR PPG RPG
G Chelsie Hall, 5-7, Fr. 12.1 3.4
G Cierra Walker, 5-8, Soph. 8.7 2.7
G Christa Reed, 5-11, Sr. 10.3 3.6
F Kayla Overbeck, 6-1, Soph. 9.7 4.7
F Autumn Newby, 6-2, Fr. 5.3 6.8
COACH Stephanie White (21-39 in second season at Vanderbilt and overall)
67.0 Points for 68.9
73.3 Points against 78.9
-5.9 Rebound margin -5.5
+2.2 Turnover margin -3.7
36.6 FG pct. 45.0
28.8 3-pt pct. 38.1
67.3 FT pct. 73.2
The 5-5 lightning-quick junior point guard has been a great fit in Neighbors' racehorse-style offense in his first season with the Razorbacks.
Monk has thrived, averaging a team-high 15.9 points per game compared to just 9.1 last season. She has started every game this season and leads the team in minutes played, averaging more than 34 per game.
Neighbors said his first season at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (12-17) has flown by as the Razorbacks open play at 11 a.m. today in the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Arkansas, the No. 13 seed, faces No. 12 seed Vanderbilt in the opening game of the tournament.
The two teams met just three days earlier in the regular-season finale, with the Commodores using a late-game surge to claim a 78-73 victory. Monk had a team-high 17 points, including 14 in the second half.
The team hasn't allowed losses to linger all season, and the players don't want the season to end, Neighbors said.
"We laid out the different scenarios of what happens," Neighbors said. "You can kinda see that look in their eye. They want to stick around for a little while."
If Arkansas wins, it would face Texas A&M on Thursday. It would mean another meeting for Neighbors with his mentor Gary Blair, who he worked for at Arkansas. But the Aggies crushed the Razorbacks 104-60 a week ago in their only meeting this season.
Monk has set career highs in many statistical categories this season, but Neighbors said her great season runs deeper.
"She fits well in our system not only in the stuff y'all see but also in the stuff y'all don't see," Neighbors said. "I like the relationship that I can have with my guard like her that's give and take. I trust her to tell me what she's seeing, and I trust her to go with it a lot of the time. That doesn't happen overnight.
"That's a process, and she's embraced that side of things."
Monk says she's more confident this season and credits Neighbors and his staff.
"Through it all, I've grown mentally and physically with the help of our coaching staff," Monk said. "They really gave me the confidence to get back in the groove of how I'm used to playing ball. That played a huge role in this season."
Neighbors has shown confidence in his point guard, which has helped build trust, he said.
"It's hard for a kid to surrender to someone new," Neighbors said. "I think the style of play fits her better because it allows her to grow and play through some mistakes. Never one time have I looked at her and taken her out because of a mistake.
"The only time she comes out is if she appears to be tired."
She's also become a team leader, which is different for Monk, Neighbors said.
"Her greatest growth I've seen is in her ability to communicate with her teammates," he said. "It's not her normal nature to rally the troops. It's more, 'Hey y'all, watch me and come along with me.'
"She's been really consistent, and I think that's what any coach wants from any player, but specifically a point guard. She's not too high and not too low."
Another change this season is that Monk and her quickness have been a significant part of opponents' game plans.
"When you watch 10 game films and they send two back and you play them and they send four back, you know why," Neighbors said. "That's because of Mal. It's because they can't stop her. People ask what we look for in a guard, and we say a kid on offense who can draw one and a half and on defense can guard one and a half. She can do that."
The Razorbacks aren't finished this season, but Monk is excited about her senior season, too.
"We're gonna be bigger and better next year, and I just can't wait for everyone to see what we have in store," Monk said.
Sports on 02/28/2018
Print Headline: Monk an ideal fit for coach's system