FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas women's basketball head coach Tom Collen, along with juniors Calli Berna and Jhasmin Bowen, met with media on Monday to preview the team's upcoming road trip to Lawrence, Kan., to face the Kansas Jayhawks.
Outscoring opponents by an average of 30 points on its way to winning two games, including the championship, at the New Mexico Thanksgiving Tournament last weekend, Collen has been pleasantly surprised by Arkansas' play thus far.
"I'm surprised with the ease that we have been able to score and defend," Collen said. "That's probably the biggest surprise so far. We're beating teams like 80-40. That's positive. We're scoring a little bit more than we thought we might and we're defending a little bit better than what we thought we would. It's a good first step, but we've still got a long ways to go."
Facing its first true road contest of the season at Kansas, Collen said it will take more than a strong start from his freshman class to take on the upcoming challenges of the season. Experience, no matter the amount, will be relied upon.
"We're not going to win the SEC just because we had a great recruiting class," Collen said. "We're going to have to get great leadership and production from Jhas Bowen, Kiera Peak, Calli Berna, Joey Bailey and Melissa Wolff. Those are our five veterans. They don't have as much experience combined as you would like to have in your veterans, but they're our veterans."
Berna discussed the leadership role she and the other upperclassmen have taken on with such a young team this season.
"My leadership role has always been to lead by example," Berna said. "I take pride in playing hard and I feel like if you do that then people beside you are going to have to do the same thing. I think that they see other leaders as well in Jhasmin and Peak. Peak is electric when she gets out on the court and Jhasmin is our vocal leader. We have a good core group because we all bring different things to the leadership table."
Despite their inexperience, Berna said she and the other veterans have not been surprised by the strong play of the freshmen so far this season.
"They came in and they were very talented to begin with," Berna said. "It was pretty easy for us to start working with them when they're that talented. They've also taken to listening to us and learning from us. I think we work really well together and we're going to continue to do that."
Arkansas (8-0) and Kansas (4-3) are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. Wednesday inside Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. The game will air in Northwest Arkansas on KOSM-FM 92.1; in Rogers on KURM-AM 790; in Fort Smith on KFPW-FM and 94.5 FM and 1230 AM; and in Little Rock on KREB-FM 103.7. Additionally, the game can be streamed online at ESPN3.com.
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