FAYETTEVILLE – Tom Collen leads the University of Arkansas women’s basketball team into third round action at Oral Roberts in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament in Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday.
The Razorbacks (21-11) have faced ORU (23-10) once this season picking up a win in Fayetteville, 80-63, but Collen knows this isn’t the same two teams who met in December.
"We got out to a very hot shooting start in the first game," Collen said. "ORU battled hard for the whole game but our start was the difference. That was then, this is now and we have both gained a little momentum in the tournament. It will be a completely different game."
Arkansas opened the postseason with a 91-65 drubbing of Lamar in the first round in Fayetteville. Arkansas posted a season-best for points, rebounds, field goals and attempts in the game.
The Razorbacks faced a bigger challenge Sunday escaping with a win at Missouri State. Junior C’eira Ricketts hit what proved to be the game-winning three-pointer with less than a minute on the clock. The Bears had a couple of good looks at the basket but couldn’t get the shots to fall as time ran out.
Oral Roberts picked up a road win at TCU in the first round and rallied late in the game Monday slipping past Tulane who held the lead with less than a minute to play.
The Golden Eagles are paced by sophomore sensation Kevi Luper who has scored 1556 career points and had 29 in the win Monday.
"ORU is a very interesting team," Collen said. "They play a very up-tempo style and really try to speed the game up. They play a trapping zone defense and try to force opponents into quick shots. They run a dribble-drive offense and if you step up to guard them close, they’ll drive around you."
The Razorbacks counter the ORU strengths with some special talents of their own. Ricketts leads the team with 14.2 points per game and is coming off a 21 point performance at Missouri State.
Sophomore Sarah Watkins checks in with13.4 ppg and led Arkansas in the first meeting with a double-double, 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Arkansas has changed its look since the first meeting and the season-ending injury to junior three-point specialist Lyndsay Harris. Collen has gone deep into the bench and spread Harris’ minutes to a multitude of players including Julie Inman, Keira Peak and Yashira Delgado. Sophomore post Quistelle Williams has also increased her court time and production.
"This game will be very different from the first meeting and much more difficult," Collen said. "We need to beat them on the boards – their offensive style of play leads to a lot of rebounds so that will be a focus for us. The key for us is to contain them off the dribble-drive."
The winner of the Arkansas/ORU match up faces the winner of the Illinois State/Duquesne game that takes place Thursday. The winners meet on a date, time and location to be determined in the quarterfinals.