FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team kicks off a busy week with the first of two consecutive Southeastern Conference home games Thursday hosting Mississippi State at 7 p.m.
The Razorbacks (8-8, 0-3) opened the season with four of its first five league games at home. After Thursday’s Mississippi State (11-5, 2-1 SEC) game, Arkansas welcomes No. 6/8 Georgia (16-0, 3-0 SEC) Sunday at 2 p.m.
“It’s always great to play at home,” Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. “You have a sense of pride and comfort on your own floor.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Collen continued. “We were very focused on Tuesday and I’m optimistic about the energy and enthusiasm I saw. We’re coming off a tough loss but we got better at Ole Miss. This team just wants to go out and beat someone.”
Arkansas suffered a 71-86 loss at Ole Miss Sunday in a game that was much closer than scores indicate. The Razorbacks found themselves trailing the Rebels by 16 but a scoring burst and solid defense brought Arkansas back within two with just over four minutes to play.
But Ole Miss was able to hang on for the win handing Arkansas its third consecutive loss. The Razorbacks must now turn their focus to Mississippi State who has won four of its last five games and eight of the last 10. State recently lost to national powerhouse Tennessee but has a pair of big wins over Auburn and No. 17 Vanderbilt this season.
“They are a veteran team,” Collen said. “They are very experienced and very athletic. They like to score in spurts and can easily go on a 12-0 run in about 45 seconds.
“They convert all of your mistakes into layups,” Collen continued. “We can’t be careless with the ball and we have to box out strong on the boards to be successful.”
Arkansas has had several bright spots throughout the season. Senior Ashley McCray played her best game of the year at Ole Miss scoring 14 points with five rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
“Leah Leah was a big part of our run in the SEC last February,” Collen said. “We gave her an opportunity to start again Sunday and it paid off. If she is consistent, we’re a pretty good basketball team.”
In addition to McCray Arkansas has had big games from senior Charity Ford and sophomores Lyndsay Harris and C’eira Ricketts. Harris leads the team with 11.9 ppg game closely followed by Ford with 11.2 ppg and Ricketts at 10.8 ppg this year.
“This team knows they are talented,” Collen said, “but they also know they are young and we can’t use that as an excuse. Sometimes you have to convince players that there are better times ahead and this team knows that. They continue to come in and work hard every day to get better.”
The Razorbacks’ SEC schedule continues with Georgia Sunday followed by back-to-back road contests at Kentucky Jan. 21 and Alabama Jan. 24. The Alabama game will air on FSN.