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#25 Arkansas heads to Memphis for Monday game

BY ANDRES FOCIL
#25 Arkansas heads to Memphis for Monday game

ABOUT THE LADY TIGERS: Former Lady Razorback Blair Savage leads the Memphis Lady Tigers against her alma mater this evening at the always exciting Elma Rohne Field House. Devin Necaise leads the Lady Tigers on the floor with 12.6 ppg, Ashley Thornton provides the inside power with a near double of 9.6 ppg and 8.6 rpg and Se’erra Fantroy is directing traffic with just under four assists per game. After that, the Lady Tigers are highly unpredictable. Of the 10 players that have participated in all 11 games this season, nine have at least one start. After a five-game skid to start the season, the Lady Tigers have turned around with a 3-3 mark in their last six games.

ARKANSAS LOOKING TO GO TO 3-0 IN C-USA: The Lady’Backs have dusted the defending Conference USA champion — Tulsa — and last year’s third place team — SMU. Arkansas gets is third straight C-USA foe on Monday with Memphis. Arkansas has also been a popular foe for the Sun Belt (2-0) and ACC (1-1).

GEE, THEY’RE SMALL: Memphis has only one player over 6-1 — 6-3 senior center Megan Gooch.

THIS MIGHT BE UGLY: Memphis comes off its best defensive effort of the season, holding Southeastern Louisiana to only 28% from the field and 45 points. Remember how the Arkansas-SMU game opened in a near-scoreless defensive battle?

TEMPLE OF DOOM: The Elma Roane Field House has been the site of many an Arkansas heartache. While Arkansas is 2-6 at Memphis, that includes one game at the Pyramid — a loss. At the Field House, it is a 2-5 record.

NOT EXACTLY POWERFUL: Recall Arkansas’ last visit to the Elma Roane Field House — the Lady’Backs led by almost 20 points, only to escape a furious Memphis comeback.

COMPARING SCHEDULES: One of Memphis’ wins is over Lipscomb, 57-55. The Lady Tigers lost to ULM, 69-50. Arkansas defeated both.

AND LO THEY REACHED BALANCE: The Tulsa game marked a big achievement for the 2006-07 team for its head coach. For the first time in a long time, Arkansas achieved a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Granted, it’s a rounding up to 1:1 as the team has three more turnovers than assists through the first 12 games — 199:202 — but that’s something Gardner has patiently waited for this season.

GARDNER GETS MILESTONE: The 11-1 record is now the best start for Susie Gardner at Arkansas. Her previous fast start was her second season at 10-1.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Those that saw both were thinking the same thought — oh my, its Portland State/Florida International (take your choice) again — as Arkansas’ offense slowly slipped into a full blown coma midway through the second half at Tulsa. The Lady’Backs allowed some infamous comebacks in 2005-06 as the team lacked a go-to stopper. The inspired play of Tulsa pushed Arkansas to the edge as a 10-2 run sliced a double-digit halftime lead to a single point, 59-58, with 5:31 to play. After a Danielle Allen layup with 12:11 in the game, the only Arkansas points for the next seven and a half minutes came on a lone three-pointer from Donica Cosby (and that took 5:11 from Allen’s shot). The two teams traded points for the next minute and a half as Tulsa could not complete the comeback and Arkansas looked around for a solution.

THE COSBY SHOW PLAYS THE CENTER: Look, we’ve got several ways to pun this one up (The Microwave, Neo to the rescue, 99 seconds) but we’ll stick to the return of the Cosby Show as Donica Cosby stepped up to reprise her performance from season. Smooth as a pudding pop, Cosby reeled off 11 consecutive points for Arkansas over 99 seconds to put an end to Tulsa’s comeback. It started with back-to-back three-pointers, one from the left elbow then the second from the right elbow (complete with a Matrix-like hand gesture for the ball). Cosby followed with back-to-back fast break layups, the second producing a three-point play that gave Arkansas an 11-point lead, 72-61, with 2:21 left.

DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES, PART DEUX: Having Donica Cosby step up and show Tulsa the hand offensively wasn’t the only big difference over last season. Down by 11 and forced to foul, Tulsa found no salvation by sending Arkansas to the line. The Lady’Backs hit four straight and six of seven in the final 73 seconds of the game to keep the Golden Hurricane at arm’s length. Leslie Howard was the clutch with four of four in the final minute.

NEVER BEFORE IN LADY’BACK HISTORY: Brittney Vaughn did something at Tulsa that no point guard has ever achieved at Arkansas — three consecutive games with 10 or more assists. As much a salute to her teammates — you got to make the shots to get the assists — but Vaughn surpasses quite a list of stars with her feat. Only two other players had consecutive games with 10 or more assists. Christy Smith did it to open the 1997-98 season with 10 at Providence then 10 against Iowa at the Reebok Classic. Amy Wright came tantalizingly close to a triple in 2002 with 10 against Vanderbilt at the SEC Tournament then 11 in the opening round of the NCAA versus Clemson and nine in the second round against Kansas State. Among the notables who never had consecutive 10 assist games — Amber Nicholas Shirey, Tracy Webb and the school record holder for a single game Donna Wilson.

THE TRIPLE ALMOST A TRIPLE DOUBLE: Brittney Vaughn’s third straight double on assists almost became her first triple double night at Tulsa. Along with the 14 assists, Vaughn had nine rebounds and seven points in her career first 40-minute game.

MORE VAUGHN: In the last three games, Brittney Vaughn is averaging 12 assists per game the past two games — back to back double digit dime droppers — and 10.5 assists per game since Hawai’i. Even better, her assist to turnover ratio in those four games is an astronomical 3.7:1 (42 assists against only 13 turnovers). That is a dramatic improvement from the final game at UH versus UNC — 0.8:1, but nine assists against 11 turnovers.

THESE ARE THE KIND OF PROBLEMS A COACH LONGS FOR: At Tulsa, Susie Gardner opted for senior Dominique Washington as a starter over freshman Donica Cosby. Cosby was limited against SMU due to back spasms, and did not shoot well. Meanwhile, Washington was averaging over 11 ppg against Texas Southern and SMU. Washington did not do bad at Tulsa, but Cosby came off the bench to score 21. A dilemma for Memphis, but Gardner thinks she’ll stick with Cosby coming off the bench for matchups.

FORD — THE QUIET FRESHMAN: Charity Ford has been that other freshman in the starting lineup the past several games, but Susie Gardner will tell anyone that listens that Ford’s defense is crucial to Arkansas’ early season success. At Tulsa, she also got the notice to go with her defense as Ford scored a career to date best 14 points off 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range. Her three steals led the team against Tulsa as Ford forced Golden Hurricane point guard Destanie Gardner into a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (two assists, four turnovers).

MMMMHH, GOLDEN, FLAKY TURNOVERS: Arkansas feasted on Tulsa turnovers, forcing the Golden Hurricane into 20 and scoring 27 points off turnovers. The Lady’Backs had 12 turnovers of their own, but gave up only four points off turnovers. In fact, Arkansas scored 23 points off turnovers before giving up its first POT to Tulsa.

VERSUS MEMPHIS: The series is tied at 8-8, and a win would put Arkansas ahead in the series for the first time ever. Memphis, however, has the upper hand at home at 6-2, including a 5-2 mark at the Elma Roane Field House.

LAST TIME WITH MEMPHIS: Arkansas welcomed home former standout player Blair Savage from the SWC era, then proceeded to hand out a beating of historic proportions to her Memphis Tigers. Every player that could play did with none going over 30 minutes and everyone scoring in the rout. The 99 points scored was the most in the Susie Gardner era at Arkansas, and got Arkansas within a point of the century for the first time since December 2001.

LAST TIME AT MEMPHIS: Holding the halftime lead at Memphis, Arkansas got several second-half surprises on the way to a 59-53 win. Ruby Vaden came off the bench to score 14 points almost at will with 7-of-9 from the field as Arkansas built a 21-point lead. Then Victoria Crawford started her run, bringing the Tigers back to within two points. A driving layup from Sarah Pfeifer stopped the run. Rochelle Vaughn had her first traditional, second overall, double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Vaden led all with 14. Sheree Thompson rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11.

NEVER-NEVERS: So far this year, Arkansas is undefeated when it holds the opponent under 60 (7-0), leads at halftime (9-0) and holding the opponent under 40% from the field (8-0).

BACK IN THE TOP 25: This week marks the first back in the Associated Press Top 25 as the Lady Razorbacks earned the 25th position in the Dec. 10 poll. The last time Arkansas was ranked in the AP poll was the final poll of the 2002-03 season when Arkansas was ranked 24th.



Sports Category : Basketball (W)