FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team will not participate in the postseason, Lady Razorback head coach Tom Collen announced at the conclusion of practice today.
“There are lots of reasons to play in the WNIT, but I just don’t think we fit into that description right now,” Collen said. “I might feel different if we could make a serious run, but I just don’t think have the ability right now with the injuries and number of players we have.”
Arkansas’ roster is down to eight scholarship players with the most recent injury, a concussion suffered by freshman Ashlea Williams in final game of the regular season.
“The decision to not continue was made in the last 24 hours when it became apparent that we weren’t going to get Ashlea back for games,” Collen said. “We really thought that she might begin showing signs of getting better, but the bottom line is you don’t want to mess with any situation that involves a concussion. As of right now, if we played, she wouldn’t be cleared and she hasn’t been able to practice all of this week.”
Arkansas, 17-13, played without Williams in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament last week.
The Lady’Backs lost senior leading scorer and rebounder Lauren Ervin to a collegiate career ending ACL tear in the opening game of SEC play. The addition of Williams to the injured list leaves Arkansas with no substitute post players.
“It’s draining to go through practice with only eight,” senior post Sarah Pfeiffer said. “As a team, we know this is the best thing for us.”
“It’s been really hard for us to practice the last few weeks because of the injuries and numbers,” senior point guard Brittney Vaughn added. “For example, having Ayana (Brereton) step up and learn the four to give our posts some relief helps, but we still don’t have enough players.”
Not giving his seniors a last game in Walton was a tough decision for the veteran coach.
“The one thing that I feel bad about is that I told my seniors that we would find a way to get a home game in Bud Walton Arena and let them go out with a win,” Collen said. “In reality, there was never any guarantee that we would get to play at home. I talked to the two seniors. They both want to be coaches, and someday they’ll know what a kind of decision like this is like. They’re both strong people and they have their lives mapped out.”
Collen added that his starters were nursing smaller injuries that could be managed, but would be difficult to handle without depth.
“A lot of people don’t realize we’ve got Whitney Jones running around on two bad ankles and Ayana has sprained ankles,” Collen said. “Our original plan with Sarah was for her to only go 20-25 minutes a game and not practice every day of the week. Since Lauren went down, she’s going 35 to 40 minutes a game and she just wiped out.”
Emphasizing that he wished his team was a better position to take advantage of a postseason bid, Collen did not feel his younger players were missing out on the opportunity for additional games.
“I think people probably have forgotten by now that we started practice on the first day of class this year because of our foreign tour to Canada,” he added. “We already got 10 extra practice days, two games and a lot of conditioning.”
By making the announcement the day before the University’s spring break week, Collen allowed his players to regroup for the restart of workouts later this month.
“What’s most important for this team right now is to give them their vacation during spring break,” he said. “They don’t have to do basketball, they don’t have to do class work, but they have been told that the Monday after spring break that the preseason for next year will start. Not postseason workouts, but the preseason. I really believe we will benefit more as a team to jump into individual workouts after the vacation and make each individual player better.”