FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team tests its 5-0 record Friday and Saturday at the UTEP Thanksgiving Tournament in El Paso, Texas.
It is the first road trip for the Razorbacks who opened the season with five consecutive home contests.
"This is a good tournament with good opponents but being away from home for the first time will be our biggest challenge," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said.
"To be 5-0 was our goal and we are excited to be there," he continued. "Now the challenge is to go out and see what we can do on the road."
The Razorbacks have been good and gotten better with each of the first five games. Juniors C’eira Ricketts and Lyndsay Harris lead the team with 14.0 ppg and 13.3 ppg, respectively, as the guard play has carried the team early.
Arkansas got a renewed effort in the paint in the team’s most recent win over Tennessee State with junior Ashley Daniels posting a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards. Sophomore Sarah Watkins added 17 points for her third double-digit scoring effort.
As the season progresses the competition continues to improve as well. Arkansas opens tournament play with High Point. The Panthers are 3-2 this year and are led by Shamia Brown with 12.0 ppg and Jurica Hargraves with 10.2 ppg. Cheyenne Parker leads the team with 9.2 rpg this year. The Panthers are coming off a 17-win season and return nine letterwinners including four starters from a year ago. Their starting five include two juniors and three seniors on head coach Loy Tooey’s experienced squad.
That game is set for an 8 p.m. central tip.
The Razorbacks then face either the host UTEP Miners (3-1) or Idaho State (3-2). UTEP has three players averaging double-figures led by Gloria Brown with 16.5 ppg. Dietra Caldwell checks in with 14.3 ppg and Kayla Thornton with 10.0 ppg this year. Idaho State averages 60.0 ppg and 38.2 rpg this year while shooting about 38 percent from the field. ISU is paced by Chelsea Pickering with 17.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg this year. Teammate Lindsey Reed is the only other player averaging double-figures with 11.8 ppg. They return six letterwinners and two starters from last year’s 15-15 team.
"It’s a pretty good tournament," Collen said. "High Point is senior-laden and I think they can compete for their conference title this year. It’s a neutral floor and our first road game so anything is possible."
The Razorbacks wrap up tournament play only to return to the road for games at Texas-Arlington and Utah before finally coming home to Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas’ next home contest is Dec. 16, when they take on Oral Roberts at 7 p.m.