ABOUT THE LADY RAZORBACKS: The 30th edition of the Arkansas women’s basketball team takes the floor this season with head coach Susie Gardner. Initially, Arkansas returned at least four starters from last year’s team that went 17-14 overall, reaching the second round of the Women’s NIT. However, the injury bug hit once again, and the Lady’Backs find themselves without last year’s leading scorer and preseason all-SEC post Sarah Pfeifer. A rough non-conference season, particularly on the road, prepared Arkansas for a 5-1 start in SEC play. It is an ensemble cast for the Lady’Backs who have only one player to start every game, and only four players to play each contest.
ABOUT THE COMMODORES: Vanderbilt hosts Arkansas in the rematch of one of the seasons’ most exciting games for both teams. Melanie Balcomb’s team exhibits great balance with imposing post power led by Liz Sherwood (12.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Carla Thomas (11.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and perimeter scoring from Christina Wirth (6.4 ppg) and Caroline Williams (13.7 ppg). Dee Davis is the top point guard in the SEC, leading the league again this week in assists per game at 6.9 plus scoring 7.2 ppg — up to 8.3 ppg in league games.
MAD, BAD AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW: The Commodores come to the rematch with several issues to address with Arkansas. The Lady’Backs limited the interior power of Vandy in Fayetteville as none of the Commodore posts were in double digits. Vandy’s three-point shooting wasn’t exactly on at Walton.
THE COLD DISH: Vanderbilt enters Vengeance Week as they rematch with two teams that dealt the Commodores blows in January; Arkansas in OT at Fayetteville and Tennessee at home for Pat Summit’s 900th. The ‘Dores travel east to Knoxville on Sunday after the Lady’Backs visit.
PLAYING FOR SEED: Vanderbilt and Arkansas each have the opportunity to vastly improve their respective SEC Tournament seedings. Each remains in play for the final first-day bye along with Kentucky and Auburn in the middle of the league pack.
SINCE WE LAST MET: Vanderbilt has gone 5-3 as the Lady’Backs were the Commodores’ season opener while Arkansas is 3-4.
GOT THAT IN COMMON: Both have defeated Auburn and Miss State; both have lost to Tennessee and LSU.
GOT THAT APART: Arkansas beat Florida at home; Vandy beat Alabama and South Carolina on the road.
PEOPLES STILL OUT: Kristin Peoples re-injured her back in practice on the Friday prior to the USC game when she ran into a screen. Peoples dressed but did not play due to back spasms. Although she dressed for the LSU game, she was not available to play and will not make the trip to Tennessee. She’s not been as responsive to therapy as the Arkansas training staff hoped. Peoples is not slated for the Vandy trip, and this waives off an Ohio showdown between Columbus area Peoples and Cincinnati product Dee Davis.
AND LO WE WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE TOP 25: Florida started a run of three ranked games in the next four contests for Arkansas; six of the next eight — and one of those two, Ole Miss, was ranked earlier this year. While Kentucky might slip out this week, they remain a ranked-type opponent.
AND IT’S HISTORIC ROUGH: Last week marked only the second time for the Lady’Backs to play back-to-back top five teams.
INCOMING!: Thursday’s game brings together two of the most prolific three-point teams in the conference, if not nation. Arkansas leads the SEC in three-pointers made per game while Vanderbilt leads the league in three-point percentage.
QUANTITY VERSUS . . . : Arkansas produces more three-point goals — season or SEC only — than any another league team and once again ranks top 20 in the nation this week. Leslie Howard is the leader for Arkansas with 3.0 per game that tops the SEC game only charts and would top the league if she could play the minimum number of contests.
. . . VERSUS QUALITY: Vanderbilt hits 40.2% of its three-point attempts, and that goes up to 42.7% in SEC games. Christina Wirth is second in the SEC for full season accuracy at 47.5%, just ahead of teammate Caroline Williams at 45.7%. It’s notable that for the full season — where Leslie Howard can’t qualify — Williams is the league leader in three-pointers made per game along with her accuracy marks.
THE AIR FORCES CANCEL OUT: To paraphrase Napoleon, in this game, victory may be on the side of the larger post game. If neither side gains advantage through the air, this becomes a grinding contest in the lane. The paper advantage goes to Vanderbilt. However, in Fayetteville, Arkansas countered the Commodores formidable front line with a valiant team effort to outrebound Vandy on the offensive glass, 14-10, and hold virtually even at 40-41 on total rebounds.
BIG CROWD: Before Sunday’s game, Arkansas had played nine road games in front of a combined 13,896 fans. At Tennessee, the attendance was 14,531, doubling Arkansas’ road attendance. The Lady’Backs expect their second largest road attendance on Thursday at Vandy.
SILENCE OF THE HAMS, II: A field goal by Rochelle Vaughn with 8:35 to play was the last bucket of the game at Tennessee. A single free throw by Brittney Vaughn at 4:41 was the only Arkansas point in those final eight and a half minutes. Meanwhile, UT ran Arkansas 23-1.
LH IN THE FIRST: Leslie Howard prevented Arkansas from going scoreless at the end of the first half, hitting three three-point goals. Unfortunately, no other Lady’Back joined in and in the second half Howard was shut down by UT.
MH IN THE SECOND: Melissa Hobbs scored a SEC game best 12 points at Tennessee, keeping Arkansas in reach of the Lady Vols for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Hobbs’ five unanswered after half made it a seven point game to being the final 20 minutes, and it was another Hobbs jumper that got Arkansas back to seven, 37-30, with 15:08 left.
NOT THE TREND WE WANT: Brittney Vaughn has led Arkansas in rebounding for the third straight game with her six at Tennessee. While her aggressive rebounding was a key against Vanderbilt in the first meeting — an important factor in an overall team effort — Arkansas is 1-3 this year when it’s 5-7 point guard is the leading rebounder.
PAGING THE POST PLAYERS: Granted, last week was rough but Arkansas has not seen consistent post play — well, since Vanderbilt and Auburn in early January. At Tennessee, the posts combined for 16 of Arkansas’ 37 points, but take out Melissa Hobbs’ 12 scored mostly as a swing player rather than low post and the Lady’Backs
THE MAGIC NUMBER IS 26: As in opponent turnovers — Arkansas is 7-0 with 26 or more; 5-6 this year with 25 or less.
GOTTA HAPPEN TO WIN: Until the USC game, every time Arkansas has won this year they outshot the opponent (13-4) and committed fewer turnovers (13-4). Another big indicator: leading when the bell sounds for recess: 11-2 when up at half and 2-5 trailing.
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP: That’s the sound of Arkansas’ perimeter player backing up to the arc in SEC games. The Lady’Backs are shooting better from beyond 19-9 at .384 (81-of-211) than they shoot from the field at .349. In fact, the Lady’Backs hit more threes — 81 — than free throws — 63.
TREY MANIFIQUE: Arkansas stays at 13th in the NCAA stats for three-pointers per game for the second week in a row at 7.3 per contest, and now tops the Southeastern Conference as Georgia moves to 7.2 per game and 15th in the country.
DROPPING DIMES: The Lady’Backs continue top 20 in assists at 17.0 per game — a pretty unique achievement considering the aforementioned three-point ranking — and stand at 18th.
SERIES: Vanderbilt leads the series, 12-5, but Arkansas snapped a five-game losing streak with an overtime thriller in Fayetteville. In Nashville, Arkansas has only one win — the 2001 encounter — in eight games.
LAST MEETING WITH VANDY: It was ugly. Pure and simple. Arkansas’ shooting struggled against Vanderbilt’s size, and the Commodores had control by intermission. The Lady’Backs managed a mere 14 first -half points off 22.2% from the field. The exercise in futility peaked behind the arc as Arkansas missed 18 three-point attempts and broke a streak of games with a three-pointer that went back to the early 1990s. Danielle Allen and Sarah Pfeifer managed double digits.
LAST MEETING IN NASHVILLE: The classic case of the underdog that would never go away, Arkansas used its defense to frustrate Vanderbilt’s high-powered offense and generated just enough offense of its own to stay close. However, when Dee Davis hit one of two in the final second to move the score to three, , Arkansas would need a miracle. It was provided by Brittney Vaughn’s halfcourt shot to send the game to overtime. In the OT, Arkansas trailed again, but sister Rochelle Vaughn’s three-pointer proved the decisive bucket.
WHEN YOU SHOOT LIKE THIS . . .: Arkansas is averaging .398 from the field for the season, but .349 in SEC games which is 11th.
. . . AND YOUR OPPONENTS HIT . . .: Arkansas’ SEC foes are converting 47.7% from the field which ranks the Lady’Backs the worst shooting defense.
. . . YOU BETTER GET MORE SHOTS: There’s only two ways to have more possessions, and so far this SEC season Arkansas has both of them working. Always an aggressive team with turnovers — and usually ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the SEC for turnover margin — Arkansas has added a new passion for rebounds, particularly on the offensive glass, to bolster opportunities.
OR THEY BETTER COUNT FOR MORE: Of the 194 field goals Arkansas has made in league games, almost half — 81 — are behind the arc.
ONE THING IS GETTING BETTER: After standing last in the league for weeks, Arkansas has moved up to 8th in conference games for free throw percentage.
WHAT’S HOT: In the last five games . . . LESLIE HOWARD: 16.4 ppg MELISSA HOBBS: 7.8 ppg and 41.7% FG ARKANSAS 3PTERS: 37.7% ARKANSAS AT THE LINE: 74.8% DANIELLE ALLEN: 55% from the field
WHAT’S NOT: In the last five games . . . R. VAUGHN FIELD: 25% overall SHEREE THOMPSON: 0.7 ppg and 17% FG FG DEFENSE: Opponents hitting 49.6% SCORING DEFENSE: Allowing 70.4 ppg
ON THE THREE CHARTS: In the SEC standings, Arkansas has three players ranked top 15 in three-pointers made per game this week. Leslie Howard moves to No. 1 in three-pointers made per game with 3.43 followed by Rochelle Vaughn in sixth with 2.13 . Dominque Washington drops out of the top 15 this week after standing 12th earlier.
DEUCE ON TREYS: Leslie Howard is sixth in SEC game three-point shooting with 48.7%. Sheree Thompson joins her on this list with 37.5% for 12th.
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO GO BACK TO THE GYM: Once again, the Lady’Backs were not full strength as Kristin Peoples dressed but did not play against LSU due to injury. With Sheree Thompson missing the Miss State game in Fayetteville Arkansas’ streak of having the entire team on the bench is broken at two games. When Danielle Allen dressed out against Auburn, Arkansas had its complete roster of 13 players for the first time this entire season. That gave Arkansas two games — the following game with Alabama — with it’s entire roster. Arkansas has “lost” 32 player games on the 13-player active roster. Add in Sarah Pfeifer to get to the original 14 player roster (and 21 missed games) and Arkansas is up to 52 games.
907,522: In 30 seasons of women’s basketball, that’s how many fans have attended Arkansas home games in Fayetteville. The Lady’Backs game with Miss State tipped the scales over 900,000.
IF THE SEC TOURNAMENT WERE HELD TODAY . . . : Arkansas would be the fourth seed and not play until Friday evening against the winner of Florida-Miss State. Heading into Thursday, Arkansas is in a three-way tie with Florida and Vanderbilt. Arkansas holds tiebreaker on both teams, and Florida has tiebreaker on Vandy. That all changes Thursday as Vanderbilt can pass Arkansas and even the tiebreaker situation with the Lady’Backs through a win. The winner of Arkansas-Vandy will need to keep pace with Florida if the Gators can win at Miss State.
THIS MUCH WE KNOW: Arkansas is mathematically eliminated from only one seed: 12th. Even if Arkansas lost the rest of its games, and Miss State won all of its last five, the Lady’Backs would tiebreak to 11th.
NOTABLE FROM RECENT GAMESIF WE TOLD YOU . . . : That Arkansas would open the game shooting 43% from the field, 50% from the line and would have only one turnover, you’d think the Lady’Backs were in pretty good shape. Unfortunately against LSU, that didn’t help much as the Tigers hit their first seven shots and at the same mid-point of the opening half were sinking 78% from the field.
NO BIG SURPRISE: LSU exploited Arkansas’ size to the tune of 24 of its first 28 points in the lane. For the game, the Tigers had 58 of its 93 points in the paint compared to only 18 for Arkansas.
OVER BY HALF: Arkansas gave up a season-high 47 first half points to LSU, and cannot afford the same with Tennessee. In both meetings last season, Arkansas came out of the locker room at halftime to rally, but the deficits were too much to overcome.
SMALL VICTORIES: LSU leads the nation in scoring defense at 48.4 ppg, and Arkansas did manage 59.
TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE OFFENSE: It happened at South Carolina and Arkansas hopes it will not continue Thursday. Arkansas did not produce offensively, hitting only 30.5% from the field, 24.2% in the crucial second half. The 22.2% from behind the arc was the season low. Even though Arkansas was better for the game at the line than they’ve been much of the season — 66.7% — in the critical final minutes Arkansas missed free throws that could have effected the outcome.
WORST THREE-POINT HALF: Arkansas’ 1-of-6 in the opening frame at South Carolina was the season low half for attempts and made against conference foes. The game proved to be the worst percentage and made (4) for Arkansas in SEC play this far.
AND FOR CAROLINA: Small comfort, but Arkansas ended USC’s 100-plus game streak of scoring at least one three-pointer. South Carolina was 0-of-3 from behind the arc.
THE DYNAMIC DUO: Leslie Howard claimed postgame that she and Adrienne Bush even had name tags this summer that said “Offense” and “Defense”. Making situational subs down the stretch, Susie Gardner alternated the pair; however, it would be a mistake to completely dismiss each player’s alter ego. While Bush is considered the team’s defense stopper, she leads the team in field goal percentage at . And, Howard hasn’t exactly slacked on defense, picking up career bests for steals and blocks versus Miss State then forcing a crucial jump ball in the final 40 seconds against Florida.
SILENCE OF THE HAMS: Arkansas hit four three-point shots in the opening five minutes of the game to tie 24th-ranked Florida, 12-12. The Lady’Back offense went dark for the next 8:20 of the first half, allowing Florida a 11-0 run. Melissa Hobbs long two broke the streak, but Florida extended to an 18-4 run and a 30-16 lead with 4:22 left.
FLIP A REPTILE ON ITS BACK: And at the 4:22 mark, Florida proceeded to return the favor as Arkansas’ defense clamped down harder than a Gator chomp. Five Florida turnovers fueled an 11-0 run to finish the first half. It continued in the second as Arkansas held UF scoreless the opening 1:34. The 5-0 second half start made it a 16-0 total swing over a combined 5:56.
NEW SCHOOL RECORD AT THE LINE: The 10-of-10 free throws meets the criteria of 10 minimum attempts, so the Lady’Backs claim a pair of school marks from the Florida game. The previous best was 21-of-22 for 95% against McNeese back in 1987. The SEC regular season game mark was 14-of-15 against LSU in 1999. It also becomes the UA record at Walton Arena, surpassing the 93.8% of the ‘99 LSU game.
JOHNNIE HARRIS WANTS HER DUE: Earlier in the year, the coaches’ luncheon quip was assistant coach Johnnie Harris was in charge of our free throw shooting. That’s when the Lady’Backs were struggling mightily at dead flat last in the SEC. Now, Harris gets free throw coach of the week as Arkansas breaks the school mark for free throw percentage in a game with 100% — 10-of-10 — against Florida. Of the 10 made, four were in the final 32 seconds to preserve the win.
THAT WASN’T NECESSARY: Arkansas looked well on its way to an easy win until the 5:47 mark. Arkansas was up seven, 53-46, but did not score for the next five minutes as Miss State made a comeback thanks to five straight turnovers. Next thing you know Lady’Backs trail by two as MSU converts three of the five mistakes into a 7-0 run to lead, 55-53.
MORE HISTORY FOR THE 30TH SEASON: Arkansas achieved its best start in SEC play at 4-1 with the comeback win against Miss State.
SCHOOL RECORD TIED FOR TREYS: The 13 three-pointers made against Auburn’s 2-3 zone tied the Arkansas record in a SEC game
SOME KIND OF SCHOOL RECORD FOR FT FUTILITY: Or it should be as Arkansas shot an abysmal 4-of-12 in the second half and only 5-of-17 for the game.
FIRST TOP 25 WIN SINCE 2004: Susie Gardner picked up her second win over a top 25 team with her team’s upset of 20th-ranked Vanderbilt in overtime. Her first — and Arkansas’ most recent top 25 win — came over 16th-ranked Georgia in February 2004.
DEFENSE IS A BEAUTIFUL THING: Arkansas held its fourth team to less than 20 points in the first half with the 19 yielded to Vanderbilt. It was the season low for points in a half by the 20th-ranked Commodores. The Lady’Backs held the SEC’s overall most accurate team — and number four in the nation — to only 16.7% in overtime and 37% for the game.
ANOTHER FOUL GAME: Arkansas went 38:05 before it shot its first free throw in the Vanderbilt game. It took over 39 minutes before the Lady’Backs scored its first free throw. And, with only two free throws made it was a season low.
TOTAL TEAM EFFORT: Arkansas got points from 11 of its 12 active players against Vanderbilt.
NEAR RECORDS AT STATE: Arkansas missed its school record for fewest points allowed in a SEC game by a single bucket. Miss State’s Miayorka Johnson saved the day with her three-pointer with 2:03 left to play to give State 45 points. For some time is appeared the Lady Bulldogs would break the mark of 43 points set by Kentucky in 1993 at Barnhill Arena. It does tie the second-lowest game — ironically 45 by Miss State in Fayetteville in 2001.
NEW STANDARD FOR FUTILITY: Arkansas held Miss State scoreless for 8:08 in the first half, a new record for the Lady’Back defense this season. The Lady Bulldogs scored two field goals — and five points — in the last 15:12 of the first half.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO: That might be the question for the Auburn game. Arkansas’ offense over the years has famously under performed versus the Tigers. In fact, most of Arkansas’ records for offensive futility are against Auburn teams. Meanwhile, Arkansas defense has clamped down season lows on its first two SEC opponents.
THAT’S NO MONKEY: Arkansas got King Kong off its back in Starkville by winning the first SEC road opener in the 15-year membership of the Lady Razorbacks. The Lady’Backs were 0-8 starting SEC play on the road (the first overall game) and 0-14 in the first SEC road game. Arkansas now stands atop the league standings after game one for only the fourth time in those 15 seasons with the league.
SOMETHING FOUL ABOUT THOSE TWO LOSSES: There is a single constant in Arkansas’ last two defeats — fouls. In its most recent defeat, Arkansas never shot the bonus as Florida International had six first half fouls, three in the second for a total of nine fouls. For the game, Arkansas hit 6-of-7 for one of the best percentages of the year, 85.7%. Meanwhile, FIU went to the line 22 times, making 14, off of 20 Lady’Back fouls that including fouling out Arkansas’ leading scorer, Kristin Moore. At Western Kentucky, the Lady’Backs committed a near school record 31 fouls with another almost school record three players fouling out at Bowling Green. Western made (29) more free throws than Arkansas shot (18).
OFFENSE M.I.A. IN MIAMI: Arkansas scored 51 points in the first 30 minutes at Florida International and led by 17 points. In the final 10 minutes — 9:40 to be exact — Arkansas had one field goal and a total of three points while FIU went on a 24-3 run to turn the 17-point deficit into a four-point victory. Arkansas missed 10 straight field goals, 12 of its final 13 attempts, and aggravated the situation with five turnovers over the same time frame.
RECORD DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE: The 33 points allowed to Coppin State is the least yielded in a neutral court game in the 30-year history of the program. It surpassed 41 Hampton in the 2002 Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands and — ironically — 41 by New Hampshire in the third-place game of the 1995.
FOURTH LOWEST ALL-TIME: The 33-point game with Coppin is the least since a 31-point game against Alabama State in 1991. The all-time marks are 19 at Bartlesville Weslyan in the third game in school history (and the all-time low for a road game) then 29 points — again Bartlesville Weslyan — at Barnhill Arena in the return game. Those games come from the first year of Lady’Back basketball. Arkansas gave up 29 points the second year of the program in a home game win over Cottey College.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?: The defensive effort is only surpassed by the offensive limbo of escaping with victory in a game with less than 50 points scored. The last time Arkansas won with under 50 was the epic 45-43 upset of then #24 Kentucky on Jan 23, 1993, the only win in Lady’Back history without a single double digit scorer and one of only three games all-time with zero over 10. Arkansas also beat UMKC in 1988-89, 46-42; and downed Prairie View A&M 48-45 in 1978-79.
MO LOW — SCHOOL RECORD FOR LEAST POINTS, TWO-TEAMS: The Coppin State game goes into the books as the lowest scoring game in Lady Razorback history with 82 points. Arkansas and Bartlesville Weslyan combined for 86 points in 1977, while the Lady’Backs and then Ladykats of Kentucky scored only 88 points in 1993. The 88 total also was hit in the UMKC game of 1988-89 and Arkansas-Rice (53-35) in 1979.
DEFENSE SETS NEW STANDARD: Arkansas held UNO without scoring for 6:05 midway through the first half. It came on the heels of a 4:12 stretch and 4:00 to start the game — totaling up to only two field goals in 14:17.
POTO OPENS THE GAME: The Lady’Backs scored its first 17 points against UNO off turnovers to build a 17-4 lead. Arkansas forced 13 turnovers in the opening 10 minutes to take the lead. For the game, Arkansas had 32 — 11 from UNO’s point guard alone — and a turnover advantage of 15.
ANOTHER DEFENSIVE VICTORY: Arkansas forced a near -2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio from UTPA, picking up 11 steals in 27 turnovers and converting it into 34 points off turnovers. Equally impressive, on Arkansas’ 15 turnovers UTPA scored only two buckets — an opponent season low four points of UA turnovers.
A/T THE WAY WE D: Arkansas’ crushed Nicholls on the perimeter, forcing 27 turnovers and allowing the Lady Colonel offense to muster only seven assists in 17 made shots. That’s almost a -4:1 assist to turnover ratio for NSU.
MERRY SESQUICENTENNIAL, COACH GARDNER: Susie Gardner earned her 150th career victory against Nicholls State at Hot Springs.
HOPEFULLY NOT A PREVIEW: Western Kentucky’s size led to a 50-16 advantage in points in the paint and a 47-24 advantage on the backboards.
FOUR DOUBLES, BUT NO WIN: Arkansas got the offensive balance it needed at Western Kentucky with four in double figures, but the 73-point output — just shy of the season average at the time — was not enough to overcome the Lady Toppers’ inside power.
THAT’S FOUL: Arkansas had a near-miss at two of its school records at Western Kentucky. The Lady’Backs were called for 31 fouls, just three from the school record of 34 from the 1993 meeting at South Carolina. Three Lady’Backs fouled out of the game, one away from the school record of four. It seemed like Arkansas would tie or break the DQ record — one that dates to the AIAW era — as three Lady’Backs finished the game with four fouls.
WHO YA GONNA CALL? ZONEBUSTERS: UMKC wasn’t exclusively 2-3 as they were at Kansas City last year, but whenever the Kangaroos went zone Arkansas punished them from the perimeter. Kristin Peoples led the way with a new team high of four made (on six attempts). Arkansas hit a season best 9-of-17 from behind the arc.
ONE SHY OF ALL SCORING: Arkansas had another balanced scoring day with UMKC as nine of the 10 players in the game scored and four players were in double digits, two starters and two from the bench.
YOU DON’T SEE THAT VERY OFTEN: Arkansas’ shooting got worse the closer it got to the bucket against UMKC. The Lady’Backs’ shot 52.9% from three-point range, 52.2% from the field and 50% from the line.
WE ARE ALL MADE OF STARS: In five of the first six games this season, Arkansas has seen at least one player pick up a major career game: Kristin Peoples’ 21 points and Whitney Jones’ 22 at SMU, Dominique Washington pulling down 25 with Memphis, 10 rebounds for Sheree Thompson at Portland, Ayana Brereton getting 18 against Grambling, Melissa Hobbs doubling Tulsa for 19 and 11 then Jones picking up the double of 21 and 10 against UMKC.
UNFORTUNATELY, THE STARS HAVEN’T ALIGNED: With the exception of Memphis, Arkansas hasn’t had all those star performances come together in a single contest this season.
REBOUNDS TRUMP TURNOVERS: Arkansas had +9 in turnover margin and forced Tulsa into a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. The Lady’Backs also posted a 1.5:1 A:T. All for naught as the Golden Hurricane whipped up a storm of rebounds, 61-37, with almost as many offensive boards — 32 — as Arkansas had as a team — 37.
BENCH POWER: The starter shuffle against Grambling produced the most bench points of the season as the substitutes outscored the starters, 62-24. Not all of that can be attributed to former starter Kristin People’s career high 23 as the Lady’Backs got year-to-date highs from Kristin Moore (8) and Ayana Brereton (18).
COULD BE A FIRST: Arkansas had none of its starters in double digits, but three in double-digits from the bench. Three times in the 30-year history of the program Arkansas has not had anyone in double digits, but it will take some checking to verify if this was the first (or to find the last time) the double digit scorers were all off the bench.
BALANCE CONTINUES: Arkansas had 10 players available for Grambling, and everyone saw at least 12 minutes of playing time. For the third time this year the entire team scored.
THE GOOD NEWS — FAST STARTS: Arkansas was rolling at McArthur Court, hitting three of its first four three-pointers to build an 11-2 lead to begin the game against Oregon. The Lady’Backs followed with the best half shooting the ball in just over four years at Portland State. Against Tulsa, the Lady’Backs held an 11-point lead late in the game.
THE BAD NEWS — SLOW FINISHES: The Lady’Back offense stalled with only three field goals in the final minutes of the first half to allow the Ducks to catch and pass Arkansas by intermission, 33-30. Same story, second verse at Portland State as the Lady’Backs hit only 21.6% for the second half and went on a two-minute per field goal pace down the stretch. Tulsa added to the woes with a 13-0 run at the end to down Arkansas.
DEFENSE FLEXES ON VIKINGS: The defensive end gave the offensive end every chance in the world at Portland State, holding the Vikings to only five free throws in the last five minutes of the game. In fact, PSU made a single point in the last three minutes of the game.
SPUTTERS: Arkansas’ offense has developed a problem, first allowing Oregon off the mat after building a 10-point lead early, 22-12, with a 3:05 scoreless stretch leading to a 10-0 Duck run to tie at 22-22. Same with Tulsa as the Lady’Backs’ stalled for the final three minutes of the game and let the Golden Hurricane score the final 13 points of the game.
COMEBACK: A 20-6 run by the Lady’Backs down the stretch rallied 14 points off the 17-point deficit to Oregon, including an 11-2 climax on the run.
BRINGING BALANCE TO THE FORCE: In the first two games this year, the starting five has produced four scoring, two assist and one rebounding high. Four of the five have scored 20 points each. In the opener, Whitney Jones (22) and Kristin Peoples (21) took the lead at SMU. Memphis learned from that game, fronted Jones and isolated Peoples. The result? A career high for Dominique Washington (25) and a career tie for Rochelle Vaughn (22) with Sheree Thompson scoring a season high (16).
A DEFENSE SO GOOD IT LOOKS LIKE OFFENSE: Arkansas shredded regional rival Memphis with series record numbers, racking up the most points in the 15-game series (99) and largest margin (46). The offensive outburst was set up by another outstanding defensive performance in the halfcourt. The Lady’Backs were hitting high percentage shots courtesy of 32 Lady Tiger turnovers.
99 PUNKTE: Somehow, it sounds even better in German (points=punkte) as Arkansas scored the most points to date of the Susie Gardner era against Memphis. The 99 points bettered 86 in a then-runaway versus Centenary in 2004 and was one shy of the first century game since December 2001 for Arkansas.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH: Arkansas left the building after Memphis with numerous career marks. Kristin Peoples got her career high for assists with eight. Rochelle Vaughn tied her scoring with 22. Sheree Thompson broke her rebound high with eight to lead the team. Ayana Brereton got scoring (8) and rebounding (5) bests as did Dominique Washington (25p, 7 r). Whitney Jones picked up her rebound and steal highs with five each.
VERY HIGH STEAL PERCENTAGE: Getting the 32 turnovers from Memphis wasn’t the news for the Lady’Back defense — it was 21 steals in the 32. Every Lady’Back except Kristina Andjelkovic had a steal; all but Rochelle Vaughn had more than one.
BE ONE WITH THE BALL: Whitney Jones said she was focused on stopping her player, SMU leading scorer Janielle Dobbs, from scoring her 17 point average, then just letting the came to come to her. At the 3:29 mark in the second half, Jones became one with the game as a series of plays set the stage for Arkansas’ win. Jones drove inside to draw Joselyn Greenard’s second foul and sink a pair of free throws to cut SMU’s lead to one, 60-59. On the ensuing inbound, Jones’ steal from Dobbs gave Arkansas back the ball. Her offensive rebound kept the possession alive, then her driving layup gave UA the lead, 61-60. After a Julie Colli’s three, Jones responded with a three-point play of her own, a layup and Greenard’s fourth foul, that put Arkansas up for good, 64-63.
WORLD VIEW ON THREES: Really, more treys isn’t that big a surprise as historically, Arkansas has produced some of the SEC’s most prolific three-point shooters. On the SEC’s career top 10, Wendi Willits is the second all-time three-point shooter with 316 in her career, and Kimberly Wilson and India Lewis tie for sixth. Christy Smith just misses the SEC top 10, and that accounts for Arkansas’ career top four. Lewis (#4) and Willits (#5) rank in the three-point attempts while Smith is the seventh most accurate three-point shooter in SEC history. The one change this year is how many big guns Arkansas’ sports outside the arc.
SIGNING DAY NEWS: The Lady’Backs picked up four high school signees on the opening day of the early National Letter of Intent period. In-state, Arkansas signed Kendra Roberts, a 5-8 guard from Fort Smith, Ark., Northside High School. Susie Gardner picked up players from three neighboring states: Charity Ford, a 5-8 combo guard from Arlington, Texas, Juan Seguin; TaNisha Smith, a 6-2 forward from Kansas City, Mo., Lincoln Prep; and 6-3 forward Ashley Wilson of Byhalia, Miss.
KENDRA ROBERTS: The 5-8 guard averaged 16 ppg, 6 rpg, 9 apg and 2 spg as a junior for Fort Smith Southside High. Roberts was an all-conference and all-region pick for the Lady Rebels. Playing her summer AAU basketball with the Arkansas Kamikazi team, The former Southside High guard will participate for Northside this season for Lady Bears head coach Rickey Smith. As a freshman, she averaged 18 ppg and 10 rpg and was the district MVP at Trinity Junior High. Her sophomore season at Southside, she averaged 12 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 spg and 2 apg and was named to the state’s top 10 sophomore list by Southern Starzz. UPDATE: Roberts is averaging 12 ppg to led the Lady Bears to an undefeated conference mark (8-0) and 16-3 overall midway through 5-A West games.
TANISHA SMITH: The 6-2 guard-forward averaged 16 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 apg and 3 spg for Coach Jeff Atkins at Lincoln Prep Academy as a junior. Lincoln finished the season in the Missouri state title game with a 26-4 record. She averaged 14 ppg and 8 rpg as a sophomore for the Tigers. Her career highs are 39 points and 17 rebounds. A three-time first-team all-district pick, Smith was also a first-team Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class AAAA all-state selection in 2005. She led her AAU team, Kansas City Keys, to a 62-3 mark this past summer for coach Harrell Johnson. The Keys reached the AAU Final Four in Orlando this year. Smith averaging 18 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.5 apg and 2.0 spg in AAU play, including a 31-point game against Cincinnati Nets, to earn AAU All-America honors. UPDATE: Smith is averaging over 28 ppg her senior year, and racked up 50 points in one pre-conference game for Lincoln Prep — half the team’s 98 points in the game.
CHARITY FORD: Ranked the No. 13 prospect in the state of Texas by TexasHoops, Ford averaged for Arlington’s Juan Seguin High. The co-MVP of District 7-AAAA, Ford averaged 18 ppg, 4.5 apg and 2.3 spg for the Lady Cougars last season she racked up 596 points as half of one of the strongest backcourts in the state of Texas. UPDATE: Now ranked as the No. 13 prospect in the state of Texas by TexasHoops.com, Ford is averaging 17.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.7 apg. 4.0 spg off 53.6% from the field through the first 25 games of her senior season. Seguin was 22-3 through the middle of January.
ASHLEY WILSON: One of the top prospects from the state of Mississippi, Wilson did not participate in high school basketball last season while she was living in Ohio. The 6-3 swing post player currently attends Byhalia High School in Byhalia, Miss. The Indians’ leading scorer as a sophomore, Wilson is currently starting at point. UPDATE: As the point guard, Wilson was name MVP of one of the Indians’ preconference tournaments. BHS is 15-7 with two tournament titles heading into the heart of conference play.
PFEIFER OUT FOR THE SEASON: One day after being voted by the league’s coaches and media to the preseason all-SEC second team, returning leading scorer Sarah Pfeifer tore her ACL in her left knee during the opening minutes of the Red-White Game. Pfeifer had surgery on the knee in early November 2005 to begin the rehab process. The 2005 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Pfeifer has already used a redshirt season in 2003 after a traumatic shoulder injury at the Loyola Marymount tournament. Regrettably, this marks the fourth major surgery (2003, left shoulder arthroscopic; 2004, left shoulder full cut; 2005, right shoulder full cut) in her Arkansas career.
LADY’BACKS VOTED PRESEASON 10TH AT SEC MEDIA DAYS: The Arkansas Lady Razorbacks were voted in a tie for 10th place with Mississippi State by the media assembled for this year’s basketball media days in Birmingham. The media seconded the endorsement of the coaches by voting Sarah Pfeifer to the preseason all-SEC second team. Prior to media day, the league coaches picked Pfeifer preseason second team. Defending champion LSU and Tennessee split most of the first-place votes, with UT getting the nod on points in the poll with 251, followed by LSU in second at 248 but one more first-place vote (11 to 10 for UT). Georgia was third with one first-place vote and 224. Vanderbilt rounded out the top four. Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Alabama and Kentucky were next before Arkansas and Miss State. South Carolina was voted 12th.
LUNCH WITH SUSIE: Arkansas head coach Susie Gardner’s next luncheon is Monday, Feb. 12. The luncheons begin at 11:30 at the Clarion Hotel. Cost is $8.50 for the buffet. For more questions, contact Lady’Back marketing at 575-7312.
LIVE LADY’BACKS: Arkansas will provide all games from Bud Walton Arena not available on cable television via LADYBACKS.COM video streaming, plus the Arkansas road game from Oregon via a shared feed in the XOS system. This means that 19 of Arkansas’ 27 regular season games can be viewed live by cable or internet.