ABOUT THE TIGERS: With one senior on the roster and an all-underclassmen starting lineup, Auburn brings a new look to the old Tiger traditions. Still a power team with strength in the lane and a big rebounding game, Auburn is led by 6-4 guard DeWanna Bonner. Yes, guard as the sophomore averages 15.2 ppg and 8.6 rpg. Freshman forward Jordan Greenleaf has come on during the opening conference games to win a spot in the starting five, delivering a double-double against arch-rival Alabama last Sunday.
DOUBLE OPEN WEEK: Neither Arkansas nor Auburn plays a Thursday SEC game this week, an unusual fluke in the league schedule. The Tigers come off an emotional victory at Tuscalossa on Sunday afternoon while Arkansas suffered an equally emotional defeat at home to Miss State.
EXPECT A STARTER SHAKEUP: The combination of back-to-back games with less than 25 points from the starting lineup, the emergence of players from the bench and the unusual match-ups presented by the Tigers will result in one, if not two, changes in the starting lineup this weekend. Final decisions to be made on Saturday, but for now we will advance Sarah Pfeifer into the starting five.
THE BENCH IS SHORT: Auburn has an eight-player rotation in the first two SEC games.
BUT OH SO TALL: When healthy, the Tigers sport 6-7 at the five spot and 6-4 at the three — two dramatic match-up issues for any team.
IF WE REALLY THROW OUT THE STATS: When conference play starts, things change for all teams and none more dramatic than Auburn. Hidden in the starting lineup are the team’s true leaders in the first week of SEC action — Jordan Greenleaf, Tamela McCorvey and Sherell Hobbs. Hobbs and McCorvey aren’t that terribly undercover — they are the second and third leading scorers overall. Here’s a look at the starters with SEC numbers:
ALL GAMES SEC ONLY
Bonner 15.2 8.6 10.0 5.0
Hobbs 11.4 4.4 13.5 6.5
McCorvey 9.9 2.7 11.5 2.5
Boddie 5.9 4.2 9.0 3.5
Greenleaf 5.1 6.1 11.0 10.5
Notice the hidden double for Greenleaf, who leads the team in rebounding in SEC games.
OK, TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME: Flipping over to the Arkansas lineup, there are no real surprises, but some significant changes in production:
ALL GAMES SEC ONLY
Ervin 12.1 10.3 10.0 7.0
Washington 7.4 1.9 3.5 0.5
Allen 6.6 3.6 4.5 2.0
Vaughn 6.2 6.2a 1.0 8.5a
Ford 4.9 1.9 4.5 1.5
Considering Washington barely played at Vanderbilt, her drop is not significant. The big shifts for Arkansas are in the sixth players. First guard off the bench Donica Cosby jumps from 12.8 ppg to 17.0 ppg while first post Sarah Pfeifer goes from 8.8 ppg to 11.5 ppg. As a result, Arkansas will likely move Pfeifer to the starting five for Auburn to put a little more power into the tipoff crew.
SAME STAT, DIFFERENT TIGER: Auburn continues as one of the top shot-blocking teams in the country, ranking ninth in Division I, even with the departure of 6-4 Marita Payne. KeKe Carrier ranks 16th in the nation with 2.69 per game.
TAPE JOB: No need to panic about Sarah Pfeifer’s left shoulder. The senior asked trainer Jeremy Braziel to give her a little extra support for the last game. This taping is similar to what she did as a sophomore before surgery. While the 21 points against MSU would support the theory that we need more tape, Pfeifer said the more important thing was how she feels the day after games with the tape, resulting in less aches and pains in the shoulder.
WHERE FOR ART THOU, KEKE?: The 6-7 sophomore presence in the lane missed the opening week of SEC play with a foot injury. Carrier had played all 16 of the opening games and started half of them before sidelined. Aircraft Carrier averaged 9.3 ppg and 6.0 rpg to go with her 2.7 blocks. Her status is unknown for this week, but is expected to return to the lineup this season.
HEY, WE’VE GOT THAT, TOO: Lauren Ervin is 23rd in the nation this week in blocked shots and 17th in rebounding.
25 IN AP AND BLOCKED SHOTS: The Lady Razorbacks dropped to 25 in the AP poll, exactly where they rank as a team in blocked shots among Division I teams.
SPEAKING OF THE NATIONAL NUMBERS: While everyone rents garments over last week’s SEC decisions, keep in mind that the Lady’Backs are still among the best in the nation. Along with 25th in blocks, Arkansas is also 35th in scoring offense, 41st in margin and 40th in assists. Notable, Arkansas is 93rd in free throw percentage. What? Recall that it wasn’t two years ago that Arkansas was five from the bottom — hovering in the 310s — in free throw percentage.
VAUGHN TOP 10 IN ASSISTS: Junior Brittney Vaughn made the transition into team leader this season, and with the first week of the new year ranks ninth with 6.2 per game. The national leader is Amanda Rego of San Diego with 7.9 per game.
BUT SHE DOESN’T HAVE THE WHOLE WORLD IN HER HANDS: While Brittney Vaughn has developed into a great point guard with solid (1.5:1) assist-to-turnover ratio, Arkansas as a team has developed a serious A:T and turnover margin problem the past three games. Starting with St. Louis, Arkansas has not had a positive turnover margin against the opponent and has not forced a negative A:T from the team. While Charity Ford and Co. can claim another guard turtle with Miss State, at what cost as the rest of the Lady Bulldogs combined for only eight turnovers, 11 for the team. Arkansas’ points off turnovers have cratered since the start of the new year and plumbed a new depth with the first single digit game of the year with MSU.
LET’S REPEAT THAT — DEFENSIVE LOW: Against Miss State, Arkansas had only eight points off MSU turnovers. That is a season low, the only single digit game to date this season and in a game with 73 points scored by Arkansas a dramatic statistic worth addressing. It cuts two ways. First, Arkansas did not force enough turnovers from MSU, only 11, which tied St. Louis (a near miss at the end of non-conference play) for the least by an opponent. But the St. Louis game quickly became a low-scoring halfcourt affair and MSU was up-and-down all day. Second, by getting only four buckets off the 11 mistakes it compounded the lack of defensive pressure.
VERSUS AUBURN: Auburn leads a series dominated by the home team, 12-8. Arkansas has only one win at Auburn, and the Lady’Backs snapped an Auburn win streak in the series with a victory of their own at Walton Arena last year.
LAST TIME AT AUBURN: Arkansas got two double-doubles, but it wasn’t enough to overcome poor shooting. In spite of a SEC game-record low 23.6% from the field, the Lady’Backs had a chance in the closing minutes, but Auburn’s 6-5 center Marita Payne was too much for Arkansas’ 5-11-plus post players. Although giving up almost half a foot to Payne, Sarah Pfeifer managed a career- high 12 rebounds with 17 points. Danielle Allen added the other double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Payne, however, was a pain — rejecting a record 13 Arkansas shots — for her triple-double.
LAST MEETING WITH AUBURN: Defense and three-pointers put Arkansas in the driver’s seat against the much taller Auburn Tigers, 35-22, and the continued rain of treys kept the Tigers at bay in the second half. In all, 13 three-pointers from six different Lady’Backs were the difference as Arkansas was better behind the arc — 43.3% — than from the field — 35.9% — or even at the line — 29.4%. The win gave Arkansas its best start in school history for SEC games.