A Decade of Women’s Basketball
The Razorback women’s basketball team has been around for several decades. The official recorded start of the program came in 1976-77 with the first team going 10-6 under the direction of head coach Sharon Ogle.
But Arkansas women’s basketball can trace its roots even farther back. There are pictures and stories of teams from the early 1900s.
The Razorbacks have come a long way since those first seasons. Here’s a look back over the last decade of women’s hoops at Arkansas.
Arkansas’ first full season in the 21st century was the year of the three-pointers. Wendi Willits finished her career by adding the career trey mark — 316 — to her long list of three-point records at Arkansas. Willits’ outside shooting drove this team to a school-record 202 three-point goals. The emergence of freshman Shameka Christon gave Arkansas great balance as the 2000-01 team became the seventh — and most recent — team in school history to finish the year with four double-digit scorers.
Arkansas went 20-13 this season reaching the 2001 NCAA West Region second round where they fell to #5 Duke in Durham, N.C.
The fact Amy Wright broke Amber Nicholas’ career assist record was a foregone conclusion at the start of 2001-02; however, that Wright’s ball handling ability would lead to a new season-record 205 assists and a whopping 717 for her career wasn’t. Lost in her assist record was the senior guard’s ability to protect the basketball as the 2001-02 team broke the school record for fewest turnovers with 433 — highly significant considering the short length of some of Arkansas’ early seasons. This team also claimed the school record for most blocked shots in a season with 136.
Arkansas was 20-12 on the year and reached the NCAA Mideast Region second round. The Razorbacks fell to Clemson in Manhattan, Kan., to end the season.
For only the third time in school history, Arkansas started and finished the season ranked in the AP top 25. The 2003 team also got off to one of the four fastest starts in school history, pushing to 10-1. The season peaked with a stunning upset of No. 2 LSU, 82-72, before one of the largest crowds in school history at Walton Arena. Another five-figure crowd came a week later to see Arkansas come up short against fourth-ranked Tennessee. It was part of a 55,000-fan January for all women’s athletics combined in Fayetteville. The year had another peak as the SEC crossed the Mississippi River for the first time for a basketball tournament, and the result was a record-setting attendance at ALLTEL.
Arkansas finished the year 22-11, its third consecutive 20-win season and reached the NCAA West Region second round where they lost to #5 Texas in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Under new head coach Susie Gardner, Shameka Christon’s offensive production jumped to 21.8 ppg to lead the SEC in scoring. As a result, the senior became the first Razorback women’s basketball player to earn SEC Player of the Year and the first Associated Press Third-Team All-American. Arkansas posted its most wins on the road in almost a decade under its new head coach. The Razorbacks also notched a school record for most three-point attempts. After the close of the season, Christon became the highest drafted Arkansas women’s basketball player by the WNBA, selected fifth overall by the New York Liberty.
Arkansas was 16-12 on the year and had a seven-game winning streak in December and January.
The 9-1 start for 2004-05 tied the school record for best opening 10 games. Sophomore Sarah Pfeifer was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, giving Arkansas back-to-back league-wide player honors. It was an award Pfeifer earned the hard way. Returning to the lineup from shoulder surgery the year before, the redshirt sophomore wasn’t supposed to lead the team in scoring. But torn ACLs for two starting post players in the space of three weeks sent the not-quite 6-0 Pfeifer into the land of the giants. A former high school post, she flourished with several 20-point plus games down the stretch to lead Arkansas into the WNIT. The 2005 team shattered the school record for steals thanks to a new commitment to team defense. Nationally ranked during the early half of the season, the duo of Kristen Peoples and Rochelle Vaughn set the pace. Arkansas led the nation in steals deep into the season, finishing with 388. It also led to a near-record with 728 opponent turnovers, significant as the record season of 751 steals had the benefit of two more games than the 2004-05 team.
Arkansas was 17-14 this year and reached the WNIT second round. The Razorbacks defeated UNLV in the first round game before falling to Arkansas State.
Injuries were the toughest opponent with three starters lost over the course of the year (Sarah Pfeifer’s preseason torn ACL, Danielle Allen’s ACL and Kristin Peoples’ back) plus other limiting injuries (Whitney Jones’ shin). In spite of only one player starting every game (Rochelle Vaughn) and four playing every game, the 05-06 team set school records for the best start in SEC play at 5-1, including the first-ever SEC road win in a conference opener.
The team was 13-15 overall and lost its last nine games.
Junior transfer Lauren Ervin became the first double-double player at Arkansas since the great Shelly Wallace in the late 1980s. Ranked nationally for rebounds most the year, she has 11 double-double games — second only to Wallace for a season or career — to finish the year with 12 ppg and 10 rpg. Ervin shattered the school marks for blocks in SEC play. A school-record start to the season at 15-1 and a midseason AP ranking did not last as the Razorbacks closed with a school-record 10-game losing streak leading to the resignation of Susie Gardner as head coach in early March.
Arkansas ended the season 18-13 overall.
Tom Collen’s first season at Arkansas was a record-breaker as the Razorbacks opened 15-0. The 2007-08 team established both the longest in-season and all-time winning streak with its perfect run through the entire non-conference slate. Returning to the AP Top 25 after defeating Marquette then thrashing old SWC rival Texas Tech, Arkansas seemed poised to become a factor in SEC play. Unfortunately, the team’s double-double leader Lauren Ervin tore her ACL in the conference opener and the team was never the same. In spite of the nine-game losing streak to end the year, there were several individual achievements. Ervin was a third-round draft pick of the Connecticut Sun, and senior point guard Brittney Vaughn became the first Razorback to win a national award from the WBCA as she was named the Robin Roberts Award recipient at the 2009 Women’s Final Four.
Arkansas ended the year 17-13.
The naming of Arkansas’ seventh women’s basketball head coach was a homecoming for one of America’s most successful coaches, Tom Collen. The recruiting coordinator and eventually assistant head coach during Arkansas’ surge to the Final Four in the 1990s, Collen left his mark at Arkansas through his previous players like four-time All-American Christy Smith and future top three-point shooter in America Wendi Willits. He made an immediate impact again as his first recruiting class as the head coach for Razorbacks was ranked top 25 in the country. Arriving at Arkansas as one of the top 10 winningest women’s basketball coaches in the game, Collen in his first nine seasons as a head coach already has 200 career victories with 10 postseason appearances: five trips at Colorado State, four at Louisville and one at Arkansas. Arkansas put together a couple of win-streaks including four in a row to start the year and five in a row in the heart of the SEC schedule.
The Razorbacks ended the year 18-14 overall and reached the second round of the WNIT where they fell to Kansas on the road.
The 2009-10 season wraps up a decade of basketball at Arkansas. The Razorbacks went 8-5 in 2009 and are looking to finish strong as 2010 gets underway.
Stay tuned and see what’s next!!