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Back on the road for Arkansas; first-ever game at Rupp

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Back on the road for Arkansas; first-ever game at Rupp

ABOUT THE LADY RAZORBACKS: Arkansas heads into the final stretch with new starters to make a push for the SEC tournament seeding. Lauren Ervin is the leader, the first double-double player on average for Arkansas since the late 1980s. Offensive consistency haunts Arkansas in SEC play, and has stressed a solid defensive team to its limit.

ABOUT THE WILDCATS: Kentucky combines size and speed in with a team led by center Sarah Elliott and point guard Carly Ormerod. Coach Mickie DeMoss has a powerful rebounding team with not one, but two double-double potential inside players. Jennifer Humphrey has quietly bubbled just under double digit rebounding and scoring on average this season. The Wildcats have experienced an up-and-down past couple of weeks, and come off another heartbreaking home overtime loss. However, in Lexington, UK has been almost untouchable for Arkansas.

BRUNCH WITH THE LADY’BACKS: Yes, the game is at 11 a.m. central as Arkansas agreed to moving this game up to a noon eastern start to pull the game outside of the protected Fox Sports window on Sunday.

NEW VENUE: And yes, for the first time ever, Arkansas plays women’s basketball at storied Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington. After years of playing only at Memorial Gym on campus, UK has started playing a select number of its women’s games at the 20,000-plus seat municipal arena.

NEW FIVE?: Arkansas has used situational starters the past few games, tuning for the opponent. Listed is the last game five, and it may change again for UK.

NO GUESSING ON UK: Mickey DeMoss has gone with the same five for all 27 games this season.

GREAT TIMING AGAIN: Last time Arkansas arrived in Lexington, UK was in a must-win mode to preserve an above-.500 overall record for post-season selection. After Thursday’s overtime loss to Georgia, the Wildcats need victories in their final SEC games to keep NCAA hopes going via a 7-7 league finish.

YOUTH WILL BE SERVED: Arkansas may start two freshmen again in the Kentucky game. Tanisha Smith is on a roll the past three games, averaging 10.5 ppg with two starts. Since her Alabama state skip (zero at Auburn, 4 with Alabama), Donica Cosby has been on a double-digit roll against league members.

BOARD WILL BE PULLED: Kentucky is pulling down 41.9 per game with Jennifer Humphrey averaging 9.9 and Sarah Elliott 7.1 per game.

STREAKS MUST BE BROKEN: Arkansas brings a six-game slide in league play into the game while Kentucky has not beaten a team with a winning record at home since downing South Carolina by five on Jan. 4. The Wildcats are 2-4 at home in league play, with Florida as the only other SEC home win. UK has an unfortunate three-game losing streak of SEC overtime games at home.

IF THE TOURNAMENT WERE HELD TODAY: Arkansas holds down the 10 seed solo at this time, and would open the tournament with Sunday’s opponent, Kentucky. The Wildcats win the tiebreaker with South Carolina for the seventh seed. The winner of 7-10 — the second game on day one — meets LSU, the two seed, on Friday.

HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW TODAY: Tennessee and LSU square off Monday in the last chance to stop Tennessee from taking the No. 1 seed. At 11-0 with three games to play, UT locks up the title with a win over 9-2 LSU. At the bottom, the 11th and 12th seeds are settled Sunday as Florida travels to Alabama. Again, with three to play but tiebreaker disadvantage to Arkansas, neither team can escape the night session games of 5-12 and 6-11. In turn, Arkansas cannot escape the afternoon slots. Even if Arkansas wins out, they cannot reasonably achieve a tiebreaker that lifts them to the six spot.

POWER GAME OFF THE BENCH: Whitney Jones turned in a season-high tying eight rebounds against LSU, and her eight points with eight boards one of her best all-around games of the year.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF HIGH GAME: After all the scoring, rebounding and blocking bests, Lauren Ervin had a season/career high tying four assists against LSU as she played the high-low for easy points to both Whitney Jones and Sarah Pfeifer.

OTHER GAMES OF IMPORTANCE: Miss State’s best last chance to move up into fifth place starts Sunday with Ole Miss, but the same can be said for the Lady Rebels’ chance to pull back into the fourth seed and achieve a first-round bye. Vanderbilt is vulnerable to an Ole Miss tie at fourth.

YOU CAN’T STOP HER: And Arkansas didn’t exactly do that at Sylvia Fowles had a 20-20 game with 23 points and a near-Walton Arena record 20 boards. Her 20 rebounds ranks in a tie for the second highest ever at Walton Arena for women’s college basketball.

ASSIST MAKER: With her seven assist effort against South Carolina, Brittney Vaughn inches closer to taking over the league lead in assists from Dee Davis of Vanderbilt. The pair enter the week neck and neck at 5.96 for Davis and 5.85 for Vaughn. Only one other player (Auburn’s Whitney Boddie) is even over five per game. Vaughn now leads in SEC games only with 5.7 per game versus league foes.

VAUGHN CLIMBING ASSIST LADDER: How improved in this area is the junior? Beginning the season, she had 169 assists in her career. So far this season, Vaughn has 156. That brings her to 325 and jumps her from possible entry all the way to No. 8 all-time at Arkansas. Her seven with Carolina moved her past Juliet Jackson. Eight more will put her past Arkansas’ 2007 SEC Tournament Great Honoree, Kimberly Wilson, and Donna Wilson in sixth.

NATIONAL NUMBERS: At the start of the week, Lauren Ervin remained ranked in the top 25 for rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. The junior post is 17th in shooting at 57.8%, 19th in rebounds at 10.2 per game and 21st for blocks at 2.5. Brittney Vaughn is 14th in the country in assists with 5.8 and 92nd for steals at 2.3.

VERSUS KENTUCKY: The home team rules in this series as Arkansas leads, 12-8, but Kentucky holds serve in Lexington, 6-3. The Wildcats have won the last two meetings, including a first-ever win in Fayetteville last year.

LAST MEETING WITH UK: Sheree Thompson got on track with a point-a-minute outburst from the bench, but it was not enough to revive Arkansas’ offense in the second half. Kentucky pounded the ball inside, shooting 54.2% from the field and scooping up 46 rebounds to take advantage of the Lady’Backs’ lack of post players.

LAST TIME IN LEXINGTON: In a battle for postseason survival, the Kentucky Wildcats clawed their way to WNIT eligibility with the win. Sarah Pfeifer had another career-tying effort with 24 points, but was quite groggy in the closing minutes of the game after taking an elbow to the jaw. Arkansas trailed most of the game, but stayed within a bucket or two the entire afternoon only to be foiled by timely points from Sara Potts, who finished with her career-high 27.



Sports Category : Basketball (W)