FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team begins exhibition play Wednesday hosting Missouri Southern at 7 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks face the Lions in the only exhibition contest before the official start of the season Nov. 12.
"We’re excited to play," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "We can’t wait to face another team. We have this last chance to measure ourselves before facing two different opponents in 48 hours."
The Razorbacks have a lot to be excited about in 2010-11. Collen returns three seniors and has six juniors on one of the deepest teams in recent memory.
Seniors Brittney Richardson, Caroline Powell and Skye Rees will provide leadership and important minutes on the court but the junior class is where much of the focus for opponents will lay.
Scoring leader Lyndsay Harris and rebounding leader Ashley Daniels along with Southeastern Conference preseason pick C’eira Ricketts all have big play capabilities for Arkansas.
In addition, the trio will be expected to provide some leadership and maturity for an otherwise young team.
"This team just can’t wait to prove to everyone that we are better this year," Collen said. "I expect to see more maturity and a team that has grown up a bit."
Another element Collen has emphasized this year has been his team’s chemistry. Practices have centered on putting his five preseason starters together and getting them familiar with the system and each with other.
Those five include Ricketts, Harris and Daniels along with sophomore Sarah Watkins and junior Jamesha Townsend.
"For the first time in 13 years as a head coach, I put the starters together every time we are on the court," Collen said. "We’ve been working really hard on developing that chemistry and cohesiveness that championship teams have."
Arkansas is looking to improve upon last year’s 12-18 season and the SEC media think the Razorbacks will be better, picking them eighth in a preseason poll.
That quest gets a final tune-up against the Lions, a team that was 15-13 last year and 9-11 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
The Lions are coached by Maryann Mitts in her 10th season at Missouri Southern. The Lions return senior guard Jasmine Lovejoy who averaged a team-best 14.4 ppg and 7.0 rpg last year. She co-led the team with 34 steals. Also returning is Michelle Hedgecock a junior forward (8.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and sophomore forward Erin Rice (6.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg).
Arkansas opens regular-season play with Florida A&M Nov. 12, at 11:30 a.m. It is the first of five consecutive home games for the Razorbacks.