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#25 Arkansas heads west for Late Night at Tulsa

BY ANDRES FOCIL
#25 Arkansas heads west for Late Night at Tulsa

ABOUT THE GOLDEN HURRICANE: With Naismith Player of the Year candidate Jillian Robbins leading the way, Tulsa brings inside power with outside balance. The Golden Hurricane rocked Arkansas last year in Fayetteville for a historic victory, and many of the key players return this year. Averaging a double-double again this season, Robbins hit opponent highs for points (28) and rebounds (22) against the Lady’Backs last year.

ROBBINS ON A ROLL: Jillian Robbins picked up her 1,000th career rebound recently which makes her a 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound player for Tulsa. The senior all-American was named C-USA player of the week in the opening week of this season.

INSIDE AND OUT: With Jillian Robbins providing the power inside, Tulsa balances with the C-USA’s top three-point shooting team for accuracy.

YOUNG AND OLD: Tulsa looks a lot like Arkansas when it comes to experience with two three-year senior vets with Tandem Mays and Jillian Robbins joined by three freshmen in the starting lineup. Arkansas sports some of the SEC’s top freshmen, starting two on most nights.

SPEED VERSUS STOP: Tulsa averages 54.1 ppg but shoots .387 from the field and .457 from behind the arc. Arkansas has opened up the offensive throttle the past few games and is up to 75.6 ppg. Meanwhile, Arkansas’ defense is pushing opponents to a +7.3 turnover advantage, what could be a dangerous stat for the -6.7 turnover margin Golden Hurricane.

ARKANSAS GETS TO C THE USA: The Lady’Backs take on the second of three straight Conference USA opponents with Tulsa on Saturday. Arkansas started its C-USA run with SMU on Wednesday at home, and close it at Memphis on Monday.

THE HOLIDAY RUSH BEGINS: After a 10-day layoff from competition for fall exams, Arkansas resumes its frantic pace with four games in the next week starting with SMU on Wednesday night. Arkansas gets two days practice before starting a triangle road trip to Tulsa, Memphis and Hot Springs. The Lady’Backs should be accustomed to the pace. By the Texas Southern game, Arkansas completed 1/3 — 10 of the scheduled 30 — of its regular season schedule in less than a month — 25 days.

LATE NIGHT WITH THE GOLDEN HURRICANE: Please make sure you note the tip time — it is 8:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Center as Arkansas and Tulsa meet as the second game of a double-header. The late start was made necessary by the men’s game at 6 p.m. against Prairie View A&M and the fall commencement ceremonies in the Reynolds Center earlier on Saturday.

CHAIRWOMAN OF THE BOARDS: Junior Lauren Ervin’s 17 rebounds against SMU was a season best for Arkansas, and the most by any Lady’Back in a single game in the 21st century. The last big board game for Arkansas was a career high 15 rebounds by Shameka Christon her senior season at Tulsa.

AND PROBABLY THE MOST WITH ONE HAND IN SCHOOL HISTORY: Lauren Ervin’s mitt is smaller after the finals break, but the 6-3 junior still has a significant amount of tape and some padding to protect her left pinkie. While Shelly Wallace has the school and junior class records with 22 boards, Ervin can now lay claim to the one-handed record. Ervin suffered a compound dislocation of the finger on Thanksgiving day in Hawai’i, but in spite of the injury and stitches has not missed a single game to date.

BACK IN BOARD TIME: A handful of players in the last decade have pulled 14 (Kiesha Beard, 2002, @UF; Lonniya Bragg, 2002, Baylor; Karyn Karlin, 1997, McNeese) or 15 (Shameka Christon, 2005, @Tulsa; Karlin, 1997, USC), one has to go back to 1995 for the last game close to Lauren Ervin’s 17. Stephanie Bloomer pulled down 16 against South Carolina on Feb. 11, 1995.

AND THE LAST PERSON TO GET 17 OR MORE: Long time followers of the program know the answer — Shelly Wallace. She had 17 against Rice on Feb. 28, 1989.

TWILIGHT ZONE MOMENT: Californian Shelly Wallace has the school record with 22 rebounds. She set that mark as a junior, wearing number 44, against SMU on Feb. 13, 1988. Did we mention that California native Lauren Ervin wore #44 on Dec. 13, 2006, to pull down her 17 rebounds against SMU?

BUT A LONG WAY TO GO: To answer the query of media members, Lauren Ervin has four double doubles in the first 11 games, and that would put her on the way to being pretty good. In fact, getting close to breaking into the top six for a single season. However, she’s got a long way to go to catch Shelly Wallace. The 6-0 rebounding machine of the SWC era pulled down 25 doubles (in 30 games) her senior season. Wallace is also No. 2 with 20 double-doubles as a junior. She dominates the category with 48 in her four seasons (only three as a sophomore and one as a freshman). Wallace is the only player in school history to get a double-digit number of double-doubles in a season. The list for a single season jumps to nine by Bettye Fiscus in 1981-82, nine by Monica Brown in 1986-87, eight by Stephanie Bloomer in 1994-95, seven by Shameka Christon in 2003-04, seven by Blair Savage in 1990-91 and six by Bettye Fiscus in 1982-83. Eight players have registered four doubles in a season — equal to Ervin after 11 this year.

THE OTHER DOUBLE: Brittney Vaughn has had her share of near misses, but completed her first career double-double with 12 points and 10 assists against SMU. Vaughn’s most recent near double was 10 points and nine assists against second-ranked UNC.

HOT HAND: Brittney Vaughn is averaging 10.5 assists per game the past two games — back to back double digit dime droppers — and nine assists per game since Hawai’i. Even better, her assist to turnover ratio in those three games is an astronomical 3.1:1 (28 assists against only nine turnovers). That is a dramatic improvement from the final game at UH versus UNC — 0.8:1, but nine assists against 11 turnovers. By the way, back-to-back double digit assist games is rare in UA history — Vaughn is only the third player to achieve the feat. Amy Wright did it once, Christy Smith on two occasions.

HOT SHOTS: Seniors Dominique Washington and Leslie Howard came off the bench to break up the SMU zone defense. Washington went first with consecutive threes in the first half, finishing with 4-of-9 from behind the arc. Howard came in the late first half to hit her first trey on the way to 2-of-4.

COSBY MAY BE LIMITED: Freshman Donica Cosby is having some back spasms, and may not start at Tulsa. She was a game-time decision against SMU.

WASHINGTON GOES AT TU: While Donica Cosby’s back likely keeps her from starting at Tulsa, Susie Gardner has the benefit of going with a red-hot Dominique Washington in her place. The past two games, Washington has averaged 11.5 ppg.

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

NO LOVE FROM THE COACHES: Arkansas has received votes in each of the AP writer’s polls after the start of the season. Arkansas remains in the also receiving in the USATODAY/WBCA poll this week. The Lady’Backs didn’t start receiving votes in the coaches’ poll until the third week of the season.

FIRST TIME FOR COACH: While her teams as a player at Georgia were nationally ranked — and Final Four, by the way — this week is the first time for Susie Gardner to be the coach of a top 25 team. Despite three NCAA appearances and three OVC tournament titles, Austin Peay did not crack the national rankings.

ONE HOLDOVER: The living link between the 2002-03 team is senior Sarah Pfeifer, who was a true freshman on the last Lady’Back team ranked in the Associated Press poll.

FOUR WEEK CLIMB? JUST STARTING: Susie Gardner stressed with the team that this week’s ranking is not the end point, but just another goal along the way. It is the result of a four-week climb for this year’s team from receiving four votes just before the Rainbow Wahine to getting to the top of the also receiving last week.

RELENTLESS: The new word for the day is relentless, and Susie Gardner is asking her young basketball team to adopt a new mentality toward every game. It certainly worked with Texas Southern as Arkansas picked up its first 50-point win since 2001, and launched the game with a 12-0 run — the best start for any game to date.

VERSUS TULSA: Arkansas leads the series, 14-2, but Tulsa has the win streak at one thanks to last year’s historic win. It snapped a 13-game winning run by Arkansas, and was the first ever in Fayetteville.

LAST MEETING WITH TU: A game that Arkansas let stay too close for too long turned against the Lady’Backs in the final moments as Jillian Robbins dominated the lane for a Walton Arena record 13 field goals and 22 rebounds. It marked the first time ever for Tulsa to win at Fayetteville, and snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Lady’Backs. Melissa Hobbs did her best to battle with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but Arkansas could not get consistent scoring at the end. After the Tulsa game, Arkansas lost Kristin Peoples for most of the rest of the season due to a reinjury in the game.

ON RECORD PACE: The Lady’Backs’ equaled the best start through 10 games with the win over TSU. There have been five other teams reach this level, including Susie Gardner’s second team at Arkansas in 2004-05. The longest runs to second loss, by the way, are 13-1 from the 1995-96 season and 12-1 the next year in 1996-97. Gardner’s 2005-05 team made 10-1 before losing an unusually early SEC opener to Georgia.

THE LIVING EMBODIMENT OF YOU CAN ALWAYS PLAY DEFENSE: One could tell it was a nine-day break between games when Arkansas tipped off with SMU. The Lady’Backs missed their first nine field goals and shot only 28.6% for the first half, 20% from behind the arc. But, Tulsa was unable to take advantage of Arkansas’ offensive woes thanks to the Lady’Backs powerful defense. As a result, the LRRN almost went to the first media timeout with a scoreless game. The two teams combined to miss 11 shots — yes, Tulsa had only two shots — until the Golden Hurricane finally hit a field goal with 16:17 left in the first half. In spite of all the poor shooting, Arkansas went to half with a 25-20 lead. The Lady’Backs held Tulsa to another scoreless drought — 4:35 midway through the first half.



Sports Category : Basketball (W)