FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team returns to action after the holiday break hosting Sam Houston State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks (7-5) played their last game Dec. 21 and returned to campus Dec. 26 beginning preparations for the Bearcats (3-6). The game is the final tune-up before the Razorbacks begin Southeastern Conference play hosting Florida Jan. 3.
“It was a great Christmas break,” Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. “It was good to wind down a bit but now it’s time to get back to work. This is a tough time of year. You have to cut your holiday break short and try and focus on basketball but we’ve had a couple of really good practices and we’re ready to go.”
Arkansas opened the season well but dropped three of its last four games on the road before the break. The Razorbacks continued to play good defense but the offense went cold during the slump.
“Our biggest challenge is to get back on track offensively,” Collen said. “We have not found a way to consistently handle the zone. We have to incorporate the inside attack against the zone and get back in a rhythm.”
The Razorbacks have been paced by a solid corps of returners including senior Charity Ford who leads the team with 11.4 ppg. Sophomores C’eira Ricketts (11.3 ppg) and Lyndsay Harris (11.1 ppg) have also been key contributors to the team’s early success.
But Arkansas has gotten valuable minutes from several newcomers as well including freshmen Sarah Watkins and Quistelle Williams.
Watkins, Williams and sophomore Ashley Daniels and senior Ashley McCray are the key elements in Arkansas’ inside game.
“Sarah has been battling a major back injury,” Collen said. “We’re hopeful the 4-5 day break will be good for her. She’s so solid skill-wise and we need her to play well.
“We’ve really committed to getting better at the four and five,” Collen said. “There is still more room to grow but I like what we’re doing and the direction we’re going.”
SHSU comes to Fayetteville on a three-game losing streak before the holiday break. Despite their 3-6 record, Collen is weary of Tuesday’s opponent.
“They are a scrappy team,” Collen said. “They’ve been a little up-and-down this year but played TCU well in their last game. They are looking forward to conference play coming up as well and are trying to get better with every game. They were really competitive against us a couple years ago and I would expect that again this year.
“I really want to see a great deal of intensity and for us to look sharp heading into SEC play,” he continued. “This game is not really a fine-tuning situation but more of a knocking the rust off game.”
The game is the Razorbacks final non-conference contest before beginning league play. Arkansas opens with the Gators Jan. 3, followed by LSU Jan. 7 in the longest home stand of the season.