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.
ABOUT THE LADY HILLTOPPERS: Western Kentucky is off to a fast start at 5-1, undefeated at home this season including a thrashing of former conference rival Louisana Tech in the season opener. Crystal Kelly leads WKU with a near double of 23.3 ppg and 9.5 rpg. Hitting a whopping .663 from the field, Kelly provides the toughest test of the year to Arkansas’ small post game. Tiffany Talbert-Porter provides the outside balance, hitting 18.2 ppg from the perimeter. WKU is old-school with the traditional big center — 6-5 Sarah Shouse — and the playmaking point guard — Tifany Zaragoza — to complement Kelly and Talbert-Porter. Charlotte Marshall is the three-point threat with over half of WKU’s treys this year. The Lady Hilltoppers don’t go very deep with only seven players participating in all six games so far, and only nine in double-digit minutes.
THOMPSON OUT FOR FOURTH GAME: Sheree Thompson is home for a family emergency. She did not play the past three games (Grambling, Tulsa, UMKC). At this time, her status remains day-to-day.
ADDS UP TO ALMOST 30 POINTS: Missing three starters from last season — Sheree Thompson (8.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg this year), Danielle Allen (9 ppg last year) and Sarah Pfeifer (12.4 ppg last year) — Arkansas heads into the next games missing 29.4 ppg from the offense.
ANOTHER LINEUP?: Could happen as Susie Gardner continues to tweak the starting five. Ayana Brereton may move back to the bench in favor of Kristin Peoples, but that would give the Lady’Backs quite a small — but quick — starting five.
DOES FOUR OF A KIND BEAT TWO ACES?: The question to ask as Western has the near-double-double tandem of Crystal Kelly (23.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and Tiffany Porter-Talbert (18.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg) driving the scoring. Kelly and Porter-Talbert represent 54% of the Lady Hilltoppers’ offense. Arkansas counters with four players in double digits — Kristin Peoples (15.3 ppg), Rochelle Vaughn (11.9 ppg), Dominique Washington (11.7 ppg) and Whitney Jones (11.4). They combine for 66% of the Lady’Back scoring.
A BIG DIFFERENCE FROM THE LAST TIME: Many of the principals of the series are in place from the last two meetings, but one very big difference is 6-5 junior transfer Sarah Shouse. Shouse sat out last year after transferring from Marquette.
NEITHER TEAM DEEP: Arkansas dresses 10 for the Western game without Sheree Thompson while Western has 12 on the bench but only seven have seen action in every game this year.
BUT BOTH BALANCED: In spite of a tight rotation, Western has only one player over 30 minutes a game — Tiffany Porter-Talbert — and nine players at 11 or more minutes. Arkansas has only Rochelle Vaughn over 30 minutes — just barely at 30.7 — but all 11 on the active roster averaging over 11 minutes.
BUSH STINGS ANKLE AGAIN: Senior Adrienne Bush’s time with UMKC was limited by an ankle injury. Hurdling toward a loose ball, Bush lept on top of the Walton Arena press row, then landed awkwardly. If she is not 100%, combined with Sheree Thompson’s absense, Arkansas may be back to nine players for the Western Kentucky game.
23RD BB&D CLASSIC: Tuesday’s game is a doubleheader at Diddle Arena as the Hilltoppers host Evansville. Last time Arkansas was at Western, it was the 21st BB&D, but the games were played on separate nights.
SOMETHING MUST GIVE: Arkansas is off to a fast start from three-point range, hitting 33.9% as a team with six made per game. Western’s opponents are scoring only 24% from behind the line and sinking just under four per game.
BAD NEWS BACKBOARDS: Arkansas was even with UMKC, but it did little to turn around the Lady’Backs’ weakness on rebound margin, a -5.3 per game. WKU brings a whopping +10.7 rebound margin into the game.
ENOUGH TO OVERCOME?: Arkansas counters the rebounding deficit with turnover surplus. The Lady Hilltopppers are dead even on turnover margin, while Arkansas ranks second in the SEC at +9.3 per game. Western is slightly negative on it’s assist-to-turnover ratio at .8:1, while Arkansas is about the same to the plus side at 1.11:1.
DOUBLE DOUBLE: Arkansas got its second double in two games as freshman Whitney Jones pulled down a career high 10 rebounds to go with a near-career high 21 points against UMKC.
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.
THE NEW POTO: Back in the day, Arkansas was all about Poteau — as in the Oklahoma hometown of its first Kodak All-American and two-time SWC player of the year Delmonica DeHorney. In this historic 30th season, it’s all about POTO — points off turnovers. Arkansas is averaging 28.5 ppg off opponent turnovers — that’s 37.5% of the offense from the defense.
THE MAGIC NUMBER IS 26: As in opponent turnovers — Arkansas is 3-0 with 26 or more; 1-3 this year with 25 or less.
MAYBE THE BENCH IS A GOOD THING: The past three games, Kristin Peoples has averaged 17.7 ppg as a sub rather than starter.
SERIES: Arkansas leads the series, 3-1, and has won the past three meetings including the last visit to Bowling Green. The recent games have been tight contests with the last two decided in the final minute in favor of Arkansas.
LAST MEETING WITH WESTERN: At halftime, it appeared that Western would avenge last year’s last-second loss. Expanding the lead from 10 to as many as 16, it looked sure as Arkansas hit only 25% from the field in the first half. Doubling to 51% for the second, Kristin Peoples and Rochelle Vaughn led Arkansas on a triumphant comeback. Shutting down WKU with a new school-record 29 steals — breaking the mark of just three games ago — and forcing 40 turnovers yet again, Arkansas pulled within one in the final minute. Vaughn’s driving jumper with less than 30 seconds gave Arkansas the lead, and Peoples iced the game with free throws, the most important two points of her career-tying 18.
LAST TIME AT WESTERN: Shameka Christon had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead three Lady’Backs in double digits. Arkansas clinched the back-and-forth game in the final minutes thanks to clutch free throws by Christon after a WKU intentional foul and later a technical foul. The Lady’Backs trailed at half, 34-31. Both teams missed free throws in the final minute, including two that could have iced the game for Arkansas with seconds left. However, Arkansas avoided OT when a buzzer-beating layup by the Hilltoppers rimmed out. Ruby Vaden added 16 and Rochelle Vaughn 12.
JONES GETS FIRST DOUBLE: Arkansas picked up another double for the team and a first for freshman Whitney Jones against UMKC. The Blytheville native pulled down 10 rebounds for a new career high to go with her near-career 21 points.
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.
WHITNEY JONES, ALL-AROUNDER: If she was a gymnast, freshman post player Whitney Jones would be an all-around performer. Jones is averaging double-digits for points, 11.4 ppg, and is second on the team in rebounding, 6.1 rpg. Those one would expect from the starting post, but Jones is the team leader in steals at 2.4. She’s also tops in blocks with 1.9 for the season.
NOTABLE FROM RECENT GAMES 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 geting 18 agianst Grambling, Melissa Hobbs doubling Tulsa for 19 and 11 then Jones pickung 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.
HOBBS SCORES FIRST DOUBLE: Senior Melissa Hobbs got career highs for points and rebounds against Tulsa, and the first double-double of the year for Arkansas. Hobbs hit 19 points — more than double her junior season best of eight points — and pulled down 11 rebounds — another double of her previous high of five.
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.
PEOPLES “TIES” SCHOOL RECORD: The minimum for consideration for free throw percentage in a game is 10 attempts, and Kristin Peoples hit 11-of-11 with Grambling. That technically ties her for the school record at 1.000, but the most in a game gets the official mark — Christy Smith had 16-of-16 against Ohio State on Nov. 19, 1995.
MODELS OF EFFICIENCY: Aside from sharing the same initials, Adrienne Bush and Ayana Brereton were two of the most efficient players against Grambling. Bush started the game with 3-of-5 from the field for seven points in only 12 minutes. Brereton came on the court to hit 6-of-9 from the field, 6-of-7 at the line to score 18 in 23 minutes played.
LUCKY 7 FOR PEOPLES: For the fourth time in the first five games, Kristin Peoples had seven or more assists. Against Grambling, Peoples’ 7 assists were against only 3 turnovers. Seven was her pre-season career best, a mark she’s gotten twice this year but broke with eight against Memphis.
DIFFERENT FRESHMAN, SAME RESULT: For the first time, Whitney Jones wasn’t the star as the 6-0 post had a sluggish offensive start with Grambling but a strong defensive game as Arkansas’ leading rebounder (8) and shot-blocker (4). This game, it was Arkansas “other” freshman with the breakout game, Ayana Brereton.
A CAREER IN A HALF: Stop us if this sounds familiar to Danielle Allen’s season opener last year, but Ayana Brereton had her most minutes played in a single game and most points scored in a game by halftime. Brereton led Arkansas’ scorers with 10 points off 4-of-5 on her way to 18 for the game.
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.
THOMPSON NEAR DOUBLE: Sheree Thompson was credited with 10 rebounds at Portland State to lead the team and give her a second career high for caroms in the first four games of this season. Combined with eight points, the senior guard had her best shot at a career double of her career at Arkansas.
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.
JONES MAKES MORE HISTORY: Whitney Jones’ record effort earned her the first-ever Southeastern Conference women’s basketball freshman of the week honor on Monday. The league added a freshman honor to its weekly player honors for the 2005-06 season.
FRESHMAN STARTS: Whitney Jones’ 22 points is the most for a freshman starting in the opening game since 15 points by Karyn Karlin back on Nov. 23, 1995, against Texas-Arlington. Karlin went on to a pretty good year — SEC Freshman of the Year in 1996. Jones becomes the only freshman to start her season opener and score 20 or more. In fact, many future Lady’Back superstars didn’t have very auspicious opening games — Christy Smith and Shameka Christon each started their career openers but had 0 points. Her 22 also tops the most by any freshman in the SEC era as Wendi Willits came off the bench to score 21 at Providence in 1997. Jones’ 22 is the best of the SEC and SWC eras — box scores are spotty prior to the fourth season (1980-81).
DID YOU KNOW?: That while looking up the best freshman first games, it was discovered that Whitney Jones’ 22 points was the fourth most points by a Lady’Back in the season opener and Kristin Peoples’ 21 points ties for fifth. Kimberly Wilson’s 32 versus Pitt at the UNLV Tournament in 1995 tops the list, followed by 28 by Shameka Christon at Wichita State in 2003. Amanda Holley had 25 against Kansas State in 1982.
CAREER STARTS: Kristin Peoples not only got her 500th career point, the junior finally broke through the 18-point barrier. Five times, Peoples scored 18 in her first two years. Her 21 against SMU gave her a then-new high game, and obviously, her first 20-point game. She also tied her career high with seven assists.
THATS MS ANDJELKOVIC TO YOU: Kristina Andjelkovic played some of her best games at the close of last season, but wiped the slate almost clean in her senior season opener at SMU. The 6-2 Serb crushed her career rebound high with a team-leading 11 boards. She equalled her junior best with eight points, but none bigger than her super-clutch 18-footer with 1:03 left to play to give Arkansas a three-point lead, 66-63.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Dec. 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.