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@RazorbackWBB Travels To Face Florida In SEC Matchup

01/09/2014
Athletic Communications
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FAYETTEVILLE -- The No. 25 University of Arkansas women's basketball team (14-1, 1-1 SEC) hits the road and travels to face Florida (12-3, 2-0 SEC) in an SEC road matchup on Thursday in Gainesville, Fla.

The Razorbacks split their first week of SEC play, coming up just short at home last Thursday against No. 10/11 South Carolina, but then rebounding with a 69-66 road win at Missouri on Sunday.

Florida enters with a 2-0 record so far in SEC play, most recently earning a big road win of its own over No. 6 Kentucky.

Four players average double figures for Florida, led by Jaterra Bonds at 17.2 points per game. Bonds ranks fourth in the SEC, while January Miller (12.1 ppg), Christin Mercer (11.6 ppg) and Cassie Peoples (11.5 ppg) are also averaging double digits for the Gators.

The Gators as a group have averaged more than 81 points per game so far this season, proving to be a potent offense that should provide a great test for Arkansas' NCAA-leading scoring defense (46.7 ppg).

Despite seven freshmen on its roster this season, including five true freshmen, Arkansas has taken pride in its play on the defensive side of the ball so far this season.

"I've seen a lot of growth from our freshmen," head coach Tom Collen said. "It's never enough growth as a coach and you want them to grow up rapidly, but years of experience tells me that it's not going to happen overnight. It's going to happen with time and in bits and pieces. They'll have ups and downs. The most important thing to me is when they fall down and make mistakes that are costly, are they going to pout about it or look you in the eye and regain their composure to move on."

With sophomore Melissa Wolff expected to make her second career start against Florida, the Razorbacks will count on their young players to again rise to the challenge. Wolff recorded 14 points and 12 rebounds for her first career double-double against Missouri. 

It shouldn't take long for the Razorbacks to become familiar with the opponent on Thursday night, as the Gators feature one of the shorter benches in the conference. Florida has dressed nine players in just one game this season and eight in all other games.

The turnover margin and mental mistakes may play large roles between Arkansas and Florida. The Gators look to force their opposition into mistakes and turnovers, while Arkansas has done a good job of not doing so this season. The Gators average 10.9 steals per game, but the Razorbacks have upheld a +8.1 assist/turnover ratio. Calli Berna maintains the offensive efficiency for Arkansas, leading the SEC and fourth in the NCAA with 118 assists. Berna also leads the conference and is second in the NCAA in assist/turnover ratio (+4.54).

Florida has held the upper hand between the two teams, as Arkansas trails 8-22 all-time. The Razorbacks have managed a 3-9 all-time record against the Gators in Gainesville, including a 69-58 loss last season. Coach Collen is 2-8 all-time against Florida.

"They're hard to play against," Coach Collen said of Florida. "Sometimes in this league it's about matchups and they're a tough matchup. Florida is a team that is super, super athletic. They put three point guards on the floor and they're hard to turn over. At times you look out there and they've got five guards on the floor, so they're very quick with the basketball. They want to play at a very fast pace. We've got to do the things we do well."

Coach Collen and the Razorbacks ensure that they throw the records out when these two programs face one another, entering this week's meeting with confidence and excitement.

"I think our team over the years has enjoyed playing to a crowd," Coach Collen said. "A lot of venues in the SEC have great crowds. That excites our team when we play in front of bigger crowds. There's something that ratchets up your energy level and effort. You're not supposed to win, so you say, 'Let's beat these people.'"

Arkansas looks to do just that against Florida, with the two scheduled to tip off 6 p.m. Thursday at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.

The game will air in Northwest Arkansas on KOSM-FM 92.1; in Rogers on KURM-AM 790; in Fort Smith on KFPW-FM 94.5 and 1230 AM; and in Little Rock on KREB-FM 103.7.

For more information on Arkansas women's basketball, follow @RazorbackWBB on Twitter.


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