FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team returns to the court Sunday hosting Middle Tennessee State in a 2 p.m. contest in Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks (3-0) are in the midst of a five-game home stand to open the season. They have victories over Florida A&M, Davidson and Mississippi Valley State to start the year.
Middle Tennessee State (2-0) is an NCAA Tournament participant last year and returns eight letterwinners from that team. They will be the toughest team the Razorbacks have faced this season.
"Middle Tennessee plays with a tremendous amount of confidence," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "They’re a young team that runs their offense confidently and aggressively. They’re going to come in here expecting to beat us. We have to rise up to that."
The Razorbacks are undefeated this season but Collen notes there is still room for improvement.
"We are not as good a team as I want us to be but I’m happy to be 3-0," Collen said. "We’ve had moment in the first three games where we looked really good. We’ve had let downs and played down to the level of completion as well, but that is correctable."
Arkansas has been paced by juniors Lyndsay Harris and C’eira Ricketts and sophomore Sarah Watkins. Harris leads the team with 18.3 ppg followed by 14.0 ppg from Ricketts. Watkins averaged 9.3 ppg this year.
"It’s important that we key on our post defense and guard pressure against Middle Tennessee State," Harris said. "We’ve been working on pressuring the ball and not letting them get the ball inside.
"We feel like we come out strong in our first three games," Harris continued, "but we need to learn how to finish games. We’re working on that as well."
Watkins agreed with Harris and noted that the team is ready for its next test.
"We are looking forward to the next game," Watkins said. "We’re working on applying what we learn in practice to the games. We are focusing on tightening everything up."
Middle Tennessee enters the game with wins over USF and Austin Peay. Head coach Rick Insell and the Blue Raiders have received votes in the national polls early in the season. They are paced by Ebony Rowe who leads the team with 21.5 ppg and 14.0 rpg this season. Anne Marie Lanning is next averaging 12.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg.
Arkansas and MTSU have met just once before in program history with the Razorbacks winning in the 1982-83 season.
"Middle Tennessee is a big step up in competition for us this week," Collen said. "They have a lot of tradition and are more similar to an SEC team. It’s time for us to step up and play better opponents. Our players sense this is a bigger game and they are preparing very, very hard."