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Razorbacks host SEC leading Auburn Sunday

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Razorbacks host SEC leading Auburn Sunday

ABOUT THE TIGERS:  The rebuilding process is complete for the Auburn Tigers who return to the great glory days of national power under Coach Nell Fortner and one of the favorites for SEC Player of the Year, DeWanna Bonner.  The 6-4 guard-forward leads the SEC in scoring this week at 20 ppg and is the current reigning SEC Player of the Week.  The Tigers are undefeated at 17-0 and stand atop the SEC standings at 2-0.  The offensive firepower of the Tigers isn’t limited to Bonner as the top three scorers for Auburn rank top 15 in the SEC — Alli Smalley is 10th in the league at 12.9 ppg and Sherell Hobbs is 12th at 12.8 ppg.  The Tigers are No. 1 in the SEC in scoring offense at 80.9 ppg, No. 1 in margin at 21.3 and  No. 1 in field goal percentage.  Just for good measure — also No. 1 in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio.

BIG YOUTH DAY SUNDAY:  To help pack the house, Sunday is Take a Kid to a Game day as each paid adult can bring in one child in free. Sunday’s game is also Arkansas’ National Girls’ and Women in Sport Day.  Each of the 11 Arkansas women’s varsity teams will be honored at halftime, and all teams that are not on the road for competition this weekend will sign autographs after the game.

COACH’S LUNCHEON AROUND THE CORNER:  This next Monday, Jan. 19, is Tom Collen’s next coach’s luncheon at the Fayetteville Clarion Inn.  The buffet line opens at 11:30 a.m. for the event, with the program starting close to noon.

NOT KIDDING ABOUT THE COMEBACK:  Auburn is 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since the 1995-96 season when the Tigers were the terror of region with a power inside game under hall of fame former coach Joe Ciampi.  Current head coach Nell Fortner has the distinction of leading the Tigers to their first SEC opening win in eight years.

THE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  DeWanna Bonner led Auburn last week to a pair of league wins by averaging 29 ppg and 8.5 rpg.  This is the second week in a row for Arkansas to face the league POTW — Carly Ormerod of Kentucky was last week’s honoree.

TALK ABOUT TIGER EXTREMES:  After facing the best defense in the SEC in the LSU Tigers the Razorbacks now host the hottest offense.  Along with four No. 1’s in league, Auburn is third in the country in field goal percentage, fifth in scoring offense and 10th in Division I in scoring margin.

WORKING ON A DOUBLE CAREER:  DeWanna Bonner leads the SEC in scoring at 20 ppg and ranks third in the conference in rebounds with 8.5 rpg.  So far this season, she’s pulled down five double-doubles (36 for the career) and rolls into Fayetteville less than a hundred rebounds away from becoming a double-1,000 player.

ARKANSAS IN THE LEAGUE NUMBERS:  Ceira Ricketts is 9th in scoring at 13.1 ppg, and the trio of 10-point players for Arkansas rank 27-28-29 heading into the weekend — Ayana Brereton (10.2), Lyndsay Harris (10.2) and Whitney Jones (10.1).  Jones is fifth in the league in rebounding at 7.5 rpg, with Ricketts slipping into the top 20 this week at 17th.

ACCURATE SCORERS:  Arkansas and Auburn’s top scorers share a high percentage touch.  DeWanna Bonner is hitting 50% from the field to rank third in field goal percentage in the SEC while Ceira Ricketts is hitting 47.5% to rank fourth.

RICKETTS BACK TO NO. 1:  Freshman Ceira Ricketts leads the league with 2.8 steals per game.  During non-conference play, Ricketts was the leader or No. 2 most of the early weeks.  Her 48 total steals is also the most in the league.  Nationally, Ricketts is 30th.

DEFENSIVE POWER:  The Razorbacks held Kentucky without a field goal in the final six minutes of the game at Lexington.  No surprise, really, as Arkansas ranks 13th in the nation this week for steals per game, 26th in the country for turnover margin, and top 100 in both points allowed and opponent field goal percentage.

TOP 30 IN TREYS:  In spite of a string of lower than average three-point games (three, of course), Arkansas has stayed in the national top 30 for three-pointers made per game.  The Razorbacks are sinking 6.9 in the national stats to rank 29th.  In the SEC, Arkansas continues to lead the league with 118 made for 6.9 per game.  Individually, Lyndsay Harris is 11th, Shanita Arnold 12th and Ayana Brereton 15th.

ACHILLES HEEL?:  The one statistical weakness for Auburn favors a Razorback strength.  The Tigers rank 217th in Division I for three-point field goal defense.

DON’T BRING A WEAK SHOT INSIDE:  Auburn is 9th in the nation in blocked shots with 6 per game, led by KeKe Carrier and her 1.7 per game

MILLIONTH FAN FOR AUBURN?:  In 33 years of women’s basketball at Arkansas, to date, 997,179 fans have attended Razorback games in Fayetteville.  Arkansas entered the season with 984,206 total recorded fans (attendance records prior to 1985 are incomplete), and have registered 12,973 so far in 2008-09 for 10 home games.  Next Sunday’s game with Auburn should bring the 1,000,000th fan to a Razorback women’s basketball game.   There are 2,803 to go.

WESTERN PARTNER:  Auburn is the Razorback’s SEC West rotating partner for this season.  Arkansas returns to Auburn on the final day of the regular season.  Florida is Arkansas’ Eastern rotator.

LET’S EXPLAIN THIS, FOR THE LAST TIME:  The SEC women’s teams do not play the divisional schedule as the men’s teams, and have a 14-game schedule that breaks down this way:  once against the entire conference plus home-and-home with the rival/travel partner, home-and-home with a rotating Western Division member and home-and-home with a rotating Eastern Division team.  For Arkansas, that means home-and-home with LSU (rival), Auburn (West rotator) and Florida (East rotator).  Why the last time?  The league voted to begin a 16-game schedule next season; however, the exact format is now being decided.

SERIES:  The Auburn Tigers lead 15-9 and swept the Razorbacks last season to hold a three-game winning streak.  Arkansas faced Auburn home-and-home as a part of the league’s 14-game schedule, then played the Tigers for a third time in the opening round of the SEC tournament.  The previous meeting in Fayetteville was an Arkansas win, and at Walton Arena the series stands at 6-5 in favor of the Razorbacks.

DAYS OF REST:  Both Arkansas and Auburn had Thursday as open dates.  They’ll do the same thing in the final week of the season with an open Thursday before meeting at Auburn.

FORD RETURNS:  Charity Ford came off the bench for a season-high at Kentucky.  The junior guard had been out with a leg injury that she suffered during the holidays.  She missed the Stetson game, back in the boot on her left leg.  A new series of scans revealed an acute stress fracture, and she will be on the sidelines for a while.  Originally, she missed the game with Missouri, and did not dress after her leg injury against Dartmouth.  As dramatic as it appeared when Ford collided with a Dartmouth player and landed awkwardly on her left leg, the junior guard got a clean bill of health at the doctors.  She returned to the court for Western Illinois, turning in 24 minutes.  However, pain returned and MRIs were ordered, revealing the fracture.



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