FAYETTEVILLE – Tom Collen and the No. 23/24 University of Arkansas women’s basketball team faces its second consecutive Southeastern Conference road trip traveling to Vanderbilt Thursday.
The Razorbacks (15-2, 3-2 SEC) are off to one of the best starts in program history but face a tough challenge in Vanderbilt (12-6, 3-2 SEC).
"Vanderbilt is a great challenge for us," Collen said. "They are traditionally one of the best teams in the SEC and in the country and they are a very good team again this year."
Vanderbilt enters the contest with three league wins under their belt having defeated Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State. Their losses have come at the hands of No. 6 Tennessee and at Ole Miss in league action.
The Commodores have something few teams in the nation have – five players averaging in double figures. Three starters and two players from the bench provide Vanderbilt with a balanced attach that is tough to guard.
"Vanderbilt is very difficult to beat at home," Collen said. "They are a smart team. They play well together and play hard. Vandy has good, balanced scoring so you can’t focus on one or two players. With five players averaging double figures, they are had to shut down."
Vanderbilt has won seven straight matchups and 12 of last 13 meetings with Arkansas. Vanderbilt has been especially successful at home in the series, where it is 9-1 all-time with the lone loss coming in 2001. Although the Commodores have been very successful in the series, two of the last three wins have come in overtime.
Arkansas counters in this year’s meeting with a more confident and mature Razorback squad with three players of its own with double-digit averages.
Junior Lyndsay Harris opens the week averaging 13.6 ppg and is a proven three-point threat. Sophomore Sarah Watkins continues to improve her numbers with each game and is averaging 13.1 ppg while junior C’eira Ricketts checks in with 12.8 ppg this week.
Although the Razorbacks have several scoring threats, the team believes it’s the defense that will be the difference-maker in the game.
"We’ve been working on our defense a lot," Watkins said. "We are tightening it up and making it a focal point."
"We know Vanderbilt is a good team," added Harris. "They are going to guard us hard. We have been working on perfecting our zone and running our offense longer to get better shots."
The Razorbacks have played five SEC games with 11 regular season contests remaining on the schedule and the opponents don’t get any easier.
"There is not a game left on our schedule that won’t be a challenge," Collen said. "Every team in the league is as talented and prepared as we are. We have to focus and be ready to play from the tip."
The Razorbacks return home hosting Ole Miss in a 2 p.m. game Sunday, Jan. 23.