Arkansas (12-8, 2-6 SEC) at Alabama (12-11, 1-7 SEC)
|DATE||Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015|
|TIME||1 p.m. CT|
|LOCATION||Foster Auditorium (3,800) | Tuscaloosa, Ala.|
|WATCH LIVE ONLINE||SEC Network+|
|LISTEN LIVE||Razorback Sports Network (Phil Elson)|
|STATISTICS||Arkansas | Alabama|
|PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO||Coach Dykes|
The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team hits the road for the third time in its last four games, traveling eastwards to play the Alabama Crimson Tide on Super Bowl Sunday. The Razorbacks are coming off a win Thursday evening over Auburn which snapped a two-game losing streak. Arkansas is 3-4 in road games this season.
RAZORBACK BASKETBALL FIRST FIVE
1. SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT
Following an 0-4 start to conference play, which saw the Razorbacks play three straight top-15 opponents, Coach Dykes placed on emphasis on the “new season” – forgetting the first four games and concerning themselves more about the final 12 conference games. The Razorbacks are 2-2 in their “new season,” however, the record may not accurately depict the improvements Arkansas has shown. For instance, in the first four games, Arkansas averaged only 53.8 points per game on 32.3 percent shooting but has seen both of those numbers increase over the last four games to 59.0 points on 36.3 percent. Rebounding, becoming a staple for Coach Dykes, took a dip in the first four games (-5 margin combined) but the Razorbacks have regained their form in the last four (+1 margin). Defense, another staple for Coach Dykes, has shown improvement too after the first four games (63.8 points allowed) compared to the last four (57.2 points allowed).
2. ALWAYS IN IT
Despite their 2-6 start to conference play, the Razorbacks have been in every game and could make a case for having possibly only two losses on the schedule. Arkansas has been ahead at halftime in six of eight SEC games. And in four of their six losses, the Razorbacks were leading, tied, or within one possession at the second half under eight media timeout. Twice, the Razorbacks have succumbed on the last possession of the game – against Texas A&M, the Aggies banked in a put back as time expired and at Vanderbilt, Arkansas missed a potential game-winning three pointer at the buzzer.
3. BANK ON BROOKS
After appearing in all 30 games as a true freshman last season, sophomore Kelsey Brooks has inserted herself as a dynamic option for the Razorbacks this season. The Olathe, Kan., native is twice already this season a recipient of the SEC Player of the Week honors (Dec. 1 and 15) and leads the conference and the team in scoring averaging 16.4 per game. She also leads the team in steals per game (1.7), is second in assists per game (2.4), and is fourth on the team in rebounds per game (5.4). Brooks has started all 20 games and scored in double figures in 18 of them, including her last four in a row. In fact, she has led the team in scoring in 13 games and has been over the 20 point-plateau five times. Brooks has made significant improvements in every statistical category from last season. Her biggest jump, however, is in scoring, where she is averaging 10 points more this season – 6.4 last season compared to 16.4 this season.
4. RAZORBACKS CLEAN THE GLASS
Under first-year head coach Jimmy Dykes, rebounding the basketball has become a calling card for the Razorbacks. Arkansas possesses a +8.1 edge on the boards, ranking third in the SEC and top 25 in the country. In fact, Arkansas has outrebounded 13 of 20 opponents this season, registering a 10-3 (.769) mark in those games. Arkansas has limited opponents’ second chances, ranking third in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage at 71.6 percent. The Razorbacks have shown their will and grit on the boards, putting up these rebounding numbers despite having only the seventh-tallest (74.2 inch average) front-line in the SEC.
5. LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING
Senior Calli Berna has been a do-it-all point guard for the Razorbacks over her four-year career. In fact, she is only the third Razorback player ever to tally 600 points and grab 400 rebounds, while also dishing out 500 assists. Her 668 points, 452 rebounds, and 601 assists puts her in exclusive company with C’eira Rickets (1,537 points, 664 rebounds, 516 assists) and Amber (Nicholas) Shirey (1,209 points, 428 rebounds, 537 assists).
• The Crimson Tide enter Sunday’s contest 12-11 and 1-7 in league play. Alabama lost to top-ranked South Carolina, 85-54, on Jan. 29
• Ashley Williams is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, with 13.3 and 6.1, respectively
• Nine players average double-figure minutes
• Alabama averages 61.9 points per game (13th SEC) on 37.5 percent shooting (13th SEC).
• Kristy Curry (Northeast Louisiana, ’88) owns a 26-27 record in her second season as head coach. All-time, Curry is 335-176 in her 16th season as a head coach after previously serving at Purdue (1999-2006) and Texas Tech (2006-2013).
• Arkansas leads the all-time series with Alabama 18-14, including a 7-7 mark in games played in Tuscaloosa. The Razorbacks have won the last three meetings in a row. In the team’s last meeting, Feb. 13, 2014, in Fayetteville, Arkansas won 75-55 behind 20 points from Kelsey Brooks
PREVIOUS GAME: ARKANSAS 52, AUBURN 47 (Jan. 29, 2015)
A strong defensive effort and 17 points from sophomore Kelsey Brooks contributed to Arkansas’ win over visiting Auburn, 52-47, Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena. The win snapped a two-game losing streak. Arkansas made its first three shots of the game en route to jumping out to a 7-0 early lead and never trailed the rest of the game. Brooks scored 14 of her 17 points in the first half, assisting the Razorbacks in building up a 31-15 halftime advantage. Arkansas would see its halftime lead cut to as low as two, but did not relinquish its lead. After the Tigers trimmed the lead down to two with seven minutes left, Arkansas answered back with a 6-0 run to push the lead back up to eight. The Razorbacks’ starting five of Jessica Jackson, Jhasmin Bowen, Calli Berna, Kelsey Brooks, and Melissa Wolff combined for 49 of the teams’ 52 points.
POSTGAME NOTES (Auburn)
• Arkansas held Auburn to 47 points, the lowest total Arkansas has allowed to an SEC opponent in a win since holding Vanderbilt to 47 points in a 69-47 Arkansas victory on Jan. 19, 2012.
• Sophomore Kelsey Brooks scored in double figures for the 18th time this season. Her 17 points was also the 13th time she’s led the team in scoring.
• Arkansas led for 39:31 and never trailed in the game.
• The Razorbacks were outrebounded for only the seventh time this season, 33-28.
• Junior Melissa Wolff tallied her 15th career game in double-digit scoring with 12 points
• Senior Calli Berna passed out six assists, giving her 601 for her career. Berna is only the second Razorback ever to record 600 career assists.
ARKANSAS BASKETBALL NOTES
Arkansas has received solid play from a pair of sophomores. Kelsey Brooks and Jessica Jackson lead the team in scoring, averaging 16.4 and 13.3 points per game, respectively. In fact, Jackson and Brooks have combined for 29.7 points, making them the highest scoring duo in the conference. They have also accounted for 46.5 percent of the team’s total scoring, the most of any duo in the SEC. Eight times this season the Jackson and Brooks duo have combined for over 30 points and twice this season they have combined for over 40 points in a game (46 vs. Iowa, 47 vs. Oklahoma).
Following her six assist performance against Auburn, senior Calli Berna tallied career assist no. 601, making her just the second Razorback ever to have 600 or more assists. Amy Wright (1998-02) owns the school record with 717 assists. In addition, Berna’s 601 assists ranks her seventh for current active assist leaders in the NCAA.
Poor free throw shooting plagued the Razorbacks in the non-conference portion of the schedule as the team shot just 63.0 percent. Arkansas has shown drastic improvement since the start of SEC play, however, shooting at nearly a 71 percent clip from the line, and ranking third in conference games. The Razorbacks’ charity stripe shooting has been aided by Jessica Jackson’s (96 percent) and Kelsey Brooks’ (81 percent) hot shooting from the line in eight conference games.
A WOLFF ON THE BOARDS
Coined the “heart and soul” of the team by Coach Dykes, junior Melissa Wolff has been a key Hog in Arkansas’ rebounding numbers as she is averaging nearly a double-double with 9.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. In fact, Wolff has tallied five double-doubles this season, the most on the team. Wolff has seven career double-doubles, and Arkansas is 6-1 in those games. The Cabot, Ark., native very well could have had five more double-doubles added to her resume as she has been a threat in just about every game this season. She nearly finished with a double-double against Iowa (9 and 10), South Dakota State (9 and 16), Rutgers (11 and 8), Missouri State (10 and 9) and Texas A&M (8 and 10). Wolff’s 8.3 boards per game leads the team and ranks sixth in the SEC.
TO START OR NOT TO START
Whether she starts or comes off the bench in SEC play, sophomore Jessica Jackson has similar numbers. Consider this: in the five games she has started, Jackson’s points (11.0), rebounds (4.8) and minutes (30.4) per game is comparable to the points (12.3), rebounds (4.0) and minutes (25.7) per game in the three games she has come off the bench.
The Razorbacks have demonstrated a balanced offensive attack this season, with three players averaging double-digit points (Brooks 16.3, Jackson 13.3, Bowen 10.7) and a fourth narrowly missing the threshold (Wolff 9.2). In fact, Arkansas is one of four teams in the SEC (Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina) to have at least three players averaging in double figures. Arkansas has received double-digit scoring from at least three players in 14 of 20 games this season, with a record of 10-4 (.714) in those games.
Arkansas has shown an ability to put the clamps down defensively this season. In fact, the Razorbacks are holding opponents to 35.8 percent shooting from the field, ranking fifth in the conference and top 30 nationally while also holding opponents to 56.5 points per game. Furthermore, Arkansas owns a defensive efficiency rating of 85.0, holding its opponents to 0.850 points per possession.
The Razorbacks have gotten after it on the defensive end of the floor and have held their opponents to without a field goal for large chunks of time. Through 20 games, 33 times the Razorback defense has held their opponent to without a field goal for over four minutes. Additionally, 20 times this season Arkansas has held their opponent to without a field goal for over five minutes. Arkansas held Tulsa to without a field goal for a 9:22 minute stretch on Dec. 14, a season-best for Arkansas’ defense.
Arkansas has recorded 10 double-doubles from four different players this season, matching the total amount of double-doubles from all of 2013-14. Junior Melissa Wolff has accounted for five of them this season (17 and 13 vs. Nicholls, 14 and 10 vs. Savannah State, 15 and 11 vs. Richmond, 12 and 10 vs. Grambling, 10 and 10 vs. Tennessee), giving her seven for her career. In fact, she’s statistically good for one double-double every three starts (seven in 22 starts). Senior Jhasmin Bowen has tallied two this season (12 and 10 vs. Nicholls, 17 and 12 at Tulsa), giving her five for her career. Sophomore Jessica Jackson has seven career double-doubles, including two this season (19 and 12 vs. Savannah State, 18 and 10 vs. Texas A&M) while sophomore Kelsey Brooks recorded her first career double-double Nov. 23 against Northwestern State (19 and 12).
Coach Dykes has been open about his plans to build Arkansas women’s basketball into a perennial top 25 program and what it will take to get there. Part of what it will take to get there is a change in mindset from his group of players. The way Coach Dykes lauds his two seniors Calli Berna and Jhasmin Bowen, it is evident those two players have bought in entirely to what Coach is teaching, despite having only one year to play for him.
“I fully expect eight or nine years from now to be holding some type of championship trophy and talking about this trophy was won back in my first year when Jhasmin Bowen and Calli Berna bought into how we’re trying to do things. Those two have been terrific,” Dykes said while addressing the media Jan. 16.
DISHING IT OUT
Along with one of the top point guards in all of college basketball in Calli Berna, the Razorbacks have distributed the ball effectively this season. Arkansas has assisted on 57.8 percent of its made field goals this season, including a season-best 78.9 percent (15 assists on 19 field goals) in a road win against MTSU Nov. 20. Berna ranks fourth in the conference with an individual assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.9:1, and is second in the conference, averaging 5.0 assists per game. While she’s on the floor, Berna assists on slightly more than one out of every four made field goals (28.2 assist percentage).
HOLDING ONTO THE ROCK
Don’t let Arkansas’ negative turnover margin be misleading. The Razorbacks are turning the ball over a league-low 13.6 times per game, but are only forcing 13.1 turnovers on the defensive end of the floor.
CONFERENCE CALL FOR JACKSON
A 2014-15 Preseason All-SEC first team selection, sophomore Jessica Jackson seems to find an extra gear when it comes to competing in the nation’s toughest conference. During her freshman season, Jackson averaged 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and was named to the 2013-14 All-SEC freshman team and to the All-SEC second team. In eight conference games this season, she is averaging 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Jackson has played in 25 career conference games, reaching double figures in 17 of those games. In fact, she is averaging 15.4 points per game in 25 career SEC games compared to 14.1 points in 26 non-conference games.
BOSTAD NAMED FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
On the heels of her first career start and posting a career-high 15 points in the Razorbacks’ win over Missouri Jan. 18, freshman McKinley Bostad was named SEC Freshman of the Week as announced by the conference office Jan. 19. Against Missouri, she set new career highs in points (15), three-pointers made (4), three-pointers attempted (7), rebounds (3), and minutes (33). Bostad has seen her role gradually increase as the season has progressed, averaging 16.9 minutes and 4.3 points per contest in SEC play, compared to 12.7 minutes and 2.6 points in the non-conference games.
The tallest player on the roster at 6’4, freshman Katie Powell has seen limited minutes so far this season. She certainly made the most of her time on the floor however, averaging about 1.0 points and 0.5 rebounds per two minutes.
TOUGH ON THE ROAD
In non-conference play, the Razorbacks played away from Bud Walton Arena in six of their 12 games. Arkansas has established a perfect 6-0 (3-0 away, 3-0 neutral) mark in away/neutral site games, tied with South Carolina among SEC teams for the most wins coming away from home during the non-conference schedule.
The Razorbacks have grown accustomed to winning while donning the traveling red jerseys, having won their last 12 true non-conference road games in a row dating back to the 2009-10 season.
HOME SWEET ARKANSAS
With a large portion of Razorback supporters scattered across Arkansas, the Hogs have a history of playing games throughout the state. Facing Oklahoma Dec. 21, the Razorbacks made their first appearance in Little Rock and Verizon Arena since 2009 and the program’s 10th overall trip to Little Rock, where the Hogs have tallied a 6-4 (.600) all-time record. The Oklahoma game also marked the 23rd overall game played in the state of Arkansas for the Razorbacks, owning an all-time record of 16-7 (.700). The 2015 SEC Women’s Basketball Championship will be held in Verizon Arena March 4-8, 2015.
700 PROGRAM WINS
Arkansas defeated Tulsa 64-53 on Dec. 14, giving the Razorbacks their 700th program win. Arkansas joins nine other SEC schools (Tennessee, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M) that have 700 or more program wins.
As the 2014-15 campaign continues, Arkansas is in the midst of its 39th season of women’s basketball, owning an overall program record of 704-443 (.614). In those 39 years, Arkansas has advanced to postseason play a total of 21 times, including 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament.
“FINE WITH NINE”
It is no secret Arkansas will have one of the smaller roster sizes across the country. In fact, with only nine players the Razorbacks have the smallest roster in the SEC. However, head coach Jimmy Dykes has embraced each and every player on the roster and has continued his daily preaching of “Be Arkansas,” saying he is “fine with nine.”
“I’m fine with nine. That’s where we are,” Dykes said while addressing the media Nov. 7. “With only nine players, the first 23 practices, we didn’t back off one second because we have to be in top physical condition. If we only have nine going into the season, those nine have to be ready to play a lot of minutes … That term ‘Be Arkansas’ has helped me in recruiting, but it’s also helped me define who we are as a basketball team. Being Arkansas is being a great teammate, being tough, being coachable, working your tail off every day, understanding what it takes to be a legit program at this level. I only want players who want to ‘Be Arkansas’ and I have nine of them right now who want to ‘Be Arkansas.’”
BERNA WALKS IN COMMENCEMENT
Senior Calli Berna has truly exemplified what it means to be a student-athlete at the University of Arkansas and participated in commencement exercises on Dec. 20 inside Barnhill Arena. Graduating with a bachelor of arts in broadcast journalism, Berna will move on to graduate school at UA where she will pursue sports management. The Fayetteville, Ark., native has earned academic distinction from the SEC three times (SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll 2011-12, SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2012-13 and 2013-14) and from the university six times (Arkansas Athletic Director’s List Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2014 and Arkansas Honor Roll Spring 2013). Berna joins Joey Bailey as the second graduate on the team as Bailey graduated with a degree in journalism and is pursuing her MBA.
JACKSON NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-SEC COACHES FIRST TEAM
Sophomore Jessica Jackson was named to a Preseason All-SEC First Team selection by the coaches as released by the conference Nov. 5. As a freshman last season, Jackson led the team and ranked seventh in the conference in scoring, averaging 16.2 per game.
DYKES SIGNS FIVE IN FIRST RECRUITING CLASS
In his first full recruiting class, first-year head coach Jimmy Dykes added five players to his 2015 class during the early signing period in November. Two ESPN Top 100 nationally ranked players highlight the class and three of the five players are from the state of Arkansas, continuing Dykes’ promise to “Be Arkansas” and keep top in-state talent at home. Jordan Danberry (G, 5-7) is a five-star recruit ranked No. 47 in the 2015 class by ESPN out of Conway, Ark. She was named the 2014 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 15.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists as a junior. North Little Rock’s Malica Monk (G, 5-5) is a four-star prospect ranked No. 64 in the 2015 class by ESPN. Monk was the first player to commit to Dykes and Coach says she is one of the fastest players baseline-to-baseline with a basketball in her hand in the entire 2015 class nationwide. Bailey Zimmerman (G/F, 6-1) is a three-time all-state tournament team selection out of Hattiville (Arkansas) High School and listed as a three-star prospect. Keiryn Swenson (G/F, 6-1) was a member of the 2014 6A All-State team out of Maize (Kansas) High School and is listed as a three-star prospect. Swenson had Division I offers in basketball, volleyball, and track and she will throw the javelin for Arkansas’ track and field team in the spring. Briunna Freeman (G, 5-9) has scored over 1,500 points in her career at Pelham (Georgia) High School and is a two-time AA All-State first team selection. Dykes notes her incredible athleticism, adding in that Freeman can dunk a tennis ball.
In the later stages of the first half on the road at Ole Miss Jan. 2, freshman guard McKinley Bostad found a crease in the defense and drove down the lane. Bostad’s feet got tangled up with the defender’s, sending her face first onto the hardwood, leaving her front two teeth the only thing to break her fall. Her front two teeth broke off in half and where her teeth hit left a permanent indent on the surface at Tad Smith Coliseum. After only a few minutes on the bench to recollect herself and get the bleeding down, she told Coach Dykes she was ready to play. She finished the game playing 17 minutes and scoring three points. The following morning she had a double root canal and her teeth glued back together. Needless to say, she played 11 minutes Jan. 4 against Texas A&M.
“Her teeth were on the floor, I think I stepped on them when I went out there to check on her and she got up and she was saying ‘coach my teeth are gone, my teeth are gone’ and within five or six minutes she was saying ‘coach put me back in.’ Man, if I can get my whole team to play like that and believe like that and understand that that’s how you’re supposed to play the game no matter what jersey you have on but especially an Arkansas jersey. On the plane ride home, I told my staff the one positive I took out of that game was Bostad’s fight and her willingness to say you’re going to have to kill me to beat me because 99 players out of 100 last night would have said coach I can’t go back in.” – head coach Jimmy Dykes said addressing the media Jan. 3.
BERNA’S BIG WEEKEND
Senior Calli Berna had quite the busy weekend in December. On Dec. 19, she got engaged to former Razorback football player A.J. Derby. On Dec. 20, she walked in university commencement exercises, graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism. Finally, on Dec. 21 she started, scored three points and had four assists in Arkansas’ victory over Oklahoma in North Little Rock, Ark.
With the score tied and just seconds remaining in the first half against Mississippi State Jan. 8, Berna swished a three-quarter court shot as time expired. Her incredible shot came in as the No. 1 play of the night on SportsCenter’s Top 10. It is believed to be the first time Arkansas women’s basketball has ever appeared on SC’s Top 10. Relive the shot here.
TOP ARKANSAS GUARDS
Three of the top floor generals to ever don an Arkansas women’s basketball jersey are all located on the Arkansas sideline this season. Amber (Nicholas) Shirey played for the Razorbacks from 1988-92 and is currently serving as the Director of Basketball Operations. Shirey appeared in 117 career games, scoring 1,209 points which ranks 18th in program history. She ranks third all-time in school history with 538 assists and she is the only starting point guard at Arkansas to lead her team to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Christy Smith played for the Razorbacks from 1994-98 and is currently in her first season as an assistant coach on Jimmy Dykes’ staff. Smith ranks eighth in Razorback basketball history as she scored 1,459 points in 111 games. She is also fifth all-time in assists with 507. Smith is forever engrained in Arkansas basketball lore as she helped guide the No. 9-seeded Razorbacks to the 1998 NCAA Final Four, the program’s only Final Four appearance.
Calli Berna is a senior for the Razorbacks this season. She has appeared in 116 career games and started 97 of those. Berna ranks second all-time in school history with 601 assists. She ranks in the top 50 for scoring with 668 career points and counting. Berna is also 10th in career steals with 199.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Two Razorbacks have earned weekly honors from the conference this season. For the first time in her career, sophomore Kelsey Brooks was named SEC Player of the Week Dec. 1 and then followed up with another Player of the Week award on Dec. 15. Freshman McKinley Bostad earned her first career SEC Freshman of the Week award Jan. 19.