ABOUT THE VIKINGS: Portland State closes out a swing through the heartland with Arkansas on Friday evening. The Vikings play at Missouri State on Wednesday. Senior Heather Arns (12.5 ppg), Jenni Ritter (12.5 ppg) and sophomore Kelsey Kahle (14.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg) lead the Vikings again this season. While Portland State stunned Arkansas last season and continues to improve, PSU has struggled mightily on the road — losing six of its last seven road games heading to Fayetteville. The Vikings come off a second half collapse at Missouri State, losing 82-69.
STARTING LINEUP REMAINS IN FLUX: We will list our last game starters for fact sheet purposes, but Coach Susie Gardner anticipates lineup changes for Portland State. With travel and a light workout Tuesday, Gardner won’t make the final lineup until Friday after she has had two full practices to evaluate the team.
MIGHT NOT BE THE ONLY CHANGES: Portland State’s fifth starter is shared between Kerstin Brosterhous and Brianna Thompson — three starts each in the opening six games. Brosterhous has started the past two games, but was scoreless in 22 minutes at MSU. Meanwhile, Thompson came off the bench for 17 points off 7-of-12 with seven boards in 24 minutes.
HOMECOMING TOUR: Charity Elliott was a player and assistant coach at Missouri State and an assistant coach for Arkansas.
OH, WE REMEMBER KAHLE: Kelsey Kahle is ranked second in steals, fourth in rebounding and seventh in scoring in the Big Sky Conference this week, but Arkansas would have no problem understanding the power of Portland State’s top scorer and rebounder. Kahle got her career first double against Arkansas in the win over the Lady’Backs in Portland, scoring 24 points with 15 rebounds.
DEFENSIVE SCRAMBLE-FEST: Portland State led the Big Sky in steals and turnover margin last season and tops both categories to start 2006-07 with 13 steals per game and +3.8 turnover margin. Arkansas brings it on the defense end as well with 11.9 steals per game and a +6.6 turnover margin.
INSIDE ADVANTAGE: On paper, Arkansas has the paint with a +11 rebound advantage over Portland State — +5.5 for Arkansas and -5.5 for PSU. While the two teams are about the same size, 6-3 Kersti Brosterhous is averaging only 4.3 rpg for PSU while 6-3 Lauren Ervin leads the SEC with 9.8 rpg. Portland State’s leading rebounder is their great swing guard Kelsey Kahle with 6.5 rpg — a 5-10 hustle rebounder.
BLOCK HOGSTERS: Arkansas’ Lauren Ervin has more blocked shots — 18 — than Portland State — 16 — and the averages are quite similar: 2.3 for Ervin and 2.6 for PSU. While Ervin has two more games played for her total rebound advantage, all of PSU’s players have two hands available for defense. Plus, Ervin isn’t the only shot blocker for Arkansas as the Lady’Backs have 43 total blocks and Sarah Pfiefer (7), Tanisha Smith (5) and Whitney Jones (5) each have more blocks than PSU’s leader, Delaney Conway with four.
THE WEATHER MIGHT NOT BE THE ONLY THING FOUL ON FRIDAY: Freezing rain and snow are in the forecast, and Portland State arrives after experiencing a night of foul basketball. Two starters — Kelsey Kahle and Jenni Ritter — fouled out at Missouri State as the Vikings had 26 total fouls.
IT FINALLY SLOWS DOWN AFTER THIS WEEKEND: Arkansas faces two opponents in less than 48 hours this weekend with Portland State at 7 p.m. Friday, then Texas Southern on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Lady’Backs hit the finals break and leave the court for 10 days until hosting Southern Methodist on Dec. 13. By Sunday’s game with TSU, Arkansas will have completed 1/3 — 10 of the scheduled 30 — of its regular season schedule in less than a month.
BACK IN THE POLLS: The early undefeated start gained Arkansas just a handful — four as a matter of fact — points in the Associated Press poll for the second week of the year. The Lady’Backs picked up steam in week three, up to 24 points in the also receiving to make Arkansas 31st among the media. In the coaches’ poll, Arkansas enters this week at four votes, effectively 41st.
DONICA COSBY NAMED SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK: Thanks to her all-tournament performance at the Rainbow Wahine Classic, freshman guard Donica Cosby was selected SEC Freshman of the Week for the week of Nov. 27. Cosby came to Hawai’i averaging 6.6 ppg, 30.6% from the field and 2.2 rpg. In the Aloha state, Cosby scored 16.3 ppg off with 45% from the field (17-of-38) and 75% at the free throw line (6-8) with 3.7 rpg. She was Arkansas’ leading scorer in the first two rounds at UH, scoring 14 against Denver and a year-to-date team best 24 points against Hawai’i. After coming off the bench the first seven games of the year, Cosby entered the starting lineup in the tournament championship game against #2 North Carolina and scored 11 points.
VERSUS PORTLAND STATE: Portland State leads the series, 1-0, off the first meeting last year at Portland.
LAST MEETING WITH PORTLAND STATE: Arkansas arrived in Portland ready to put a poor game at Oregon behind it, and roared off to a 63% shooting start. But the Vikings would not go away and behind freshman Kelsey Kahle stayed within striking distance the entire game. At the end, Arkansas defense began to force turnovers and mistakes from PSU but the offense could not deliver. In fact, the defense held PSU to only five free throws in the final five minutes — one point in the last three — but Arkansas shot only 21.6% from the field and 12.5% from the arc in the second half.
SHIPS PASS IN THE NIGHT: Portland State lost to Gonzaga before Thanksgiving, a team Arkansas saw but did not play at the Rainbow Wahine last week. In two weeks, PSU heads to Hawai’i for the Wahine’s final preseason tournament.
DEFINITELY A WARRIOR: Lauren Ervin proved her mettle at the Rainbow Wahine Classic by batting the pain of a compound dislocation of her left pinkie finger. One day after the practice accident, she lead all rebounders with nine against Denver and scoring 12 points for Arkansas in only 20 minutes played. The next day, Ervine pulled down another 11 rebounds with six points in 30 minutes versus Hawai’i. Against UNC, she 15 points on 7-of-11 from the field and eight rebounds. Proving that playing with a tape and brace job that resembled half a catcher’s mitt wasn’t a problem, the 6-3 junior post had four assists and four steals in the three games of the tournament. The injury was on her non-shooting hand, and that was evident with 56% from the field for the tournament.
IMAGINE WHEN SHE HAS BOTH HANDS: Lauren Ervin is tied with Sarah Elliott of Kentucky for the conference lead with 9.8 rpg through games of Nov. 28. With her 78 rebounds in eight games, she is second on raw number to Sylvia Fowles of LSU who has 82 board in nine games. Fowles and Shawn Goff of Ole Miss are tied for third with 9.1 rpg. Ervin is third in blocked shots with 2.25 per game, sixth in field goal percentage at .606 and 13th in the SEC for scoring with 12.5 ppg.
MORE SEC NUMBERS: Arkansas is middle of the pack in almost all team categories this week. Sarah Pfeifer is 2nd in free throw percentage at .926. Brittney Vaughn is fourth for assists at 4.63 per game and sixth in steals with 2.88.
FAST PACE TO EARLY SCHEDULE: The Lady’Backs play three games in five days starting with Lipscomb, a good simulation for the three-straight they will face at the Rainbow Wahine next week in Hawai’i. By next weekend, Arkansas will have a fourth of its schedule finished with eight games in the first 17 days of the season. As a result, Arkansas has more game days — 8 — than practice days — 7 — in the early schedule.
FOUR ROAD TRIPS, THREE PRESS ROWS: Brittney Vaughn has a habit of crashing into the press tables on the road. Her skill at managing the tables is improving. At Hawai’i, she deftly leapt on top of the scorer’s table at the Stan Sheriff Center after intercepting a Wahine pass and successfully passing her steal upcourt to a teammate for a breakaway layup. At Austin Peay, Vaughn barreled through without effect. She tumbled over the table for a slight concussion hitting the bleacher steps on the other side at Clemson.
THE BEST THINGS ON THE COURT ARE FREE: Arkansas has made a dramatic turnaround at the line to start this season. The Lady’Backs continue to force the game offensively on opponents, and have made almost as many free throws — 112 — than opponents have shot — 138. Arkansas is shooting just under 70% at the line for the year. Ten of the 11 Lady’Backs that have been to the stripe have hit at least one free throw this season.