Following an eight-day layoff for the holidays, the University of Arkansas women’s basketball team returns to Bud Walton Arena for its final non-conference game of the season, hosting Grambling State at 6 p.m. Arkansas will begin Southeastern Conference play on Friday, Jan. 2, with a trip to Ole Miss. Coming off two straight road games and a neutral site game in Little Rock, the Razorbacks will be playing in their third and final home game in the month of December.
RAZORBACKS BASKETBALL FIRST FIVE
1. HOGS IN NON-CON
Arkansas wraps up the non-conference portion of its schedule on Sunday under first-year head coach Jimmy Dykes having compiled a 9-2 mark thus far. The Razorbacks raced out to a 6-0 record to open the Dykes era, and made an appearance in the AP Top 25, coming in at No. 25 on Dec. 1. Dykes and the Hogs have faced a daunting schedule, with six of its 12 non-conference games being played away from Bud Walton Arena.
2. 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 team and the conference in scoring with 17.5 per game. She also leads the team in steals per game (2.0), is second in assists per game (3.1), and is fourth on the team in rebounds per game (6.0). Brooks has started and scored in double figures in all 11 games this season but has especially been on a tear since Nov. 28. In fact, Brooks is averaging 20.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest during that seven-game stretch, including scoring over 20 points in three of those games. Brooks has made significant improvements in every statistical category from last season. Her biggest jump, however, is in scoring, where she is averaging 11 points more this season – 6.4 last season compared to 17.5 this season.
3. SCORING SOPHOMORES
Arkansas has received solid play from a pair of sophomores. Kelsey Brooks and Jessica Jackson lead the team in scoring, averaging 17.5 and 15.4 points per game, respectively. In fact, Jackson and Brooks have accounted for 48.4 percent of the team’s total scoring, the most of any duo in the SEC. Twice this season the Jackson and Brooks duo have combined for over 40 points in a game (46 vs. Iowa, 47 vs. Oklahoma).
4. BALANCED ATTACK
The Razorbacks have demonstrated a balanced offensive attack this season, with three players averaging double-digit points (Brooks 16.8, Jackson 14.6, Bowen 12.4) and a fourth player just narrowly missing the cut (Wolff 9.9). In fact, Arkansas is one of five teams (Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M, South Carolina) across the SEC to have three or more players averaging in double figures. Arkansas has received double digit scoring from at least three players in 10 of 11 games this season.
5. HOGS CLEAN THE GLASS
Part of the reason for Arkansas’ early-season success thus far has been its ability to rebound the basketball. The Razorbacks own a +11.6 edge on the boards, third in the SEC and 10th in the country. In fact, Arkansas has outrebounded nine of 11 opponents this season. The two games in which the Hogs have been outrebounded are by a combined nine boards. Arkansas has limited opponents’ second chances, ranking second in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage at 74.2 percent.
SCOUTING GRAMBLING STATE
• The Tigers own a 3-7 record on the season, having lost five of their last six games. Grambling State fell to Kansas State, 61-38, in its most recent contest Dec. 20.
• Arkansas will be the seventh Power 5 conference school the Tigers are facing this season.
• Yosha Watson leads the team in scoring (14.1) and rebounds (4.4) per game. She is also the only Tiger averaging more than 30 minutes a game (35.8)
• The Tigers lead the SWAC in three-pointers per game (5.6) and three-point field goal percentage (29.8)
• Grambling ranks last in the NCAA (343rd) in rebounding margin at -16.5
• Nadine Domond (Iowa, ’98) is in her first season as head coach of the Tigers.
• The Razorbacks own a perfect 6-0 record against Grambling State, including a 3-0 mark in games played in Fayetteville. The last meeting came on Nov. 25, 2011, in Fayetteville as Arkansas earned a 69-49 win.
• Arkansas is 32-2 all-time against current members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
PREVIOUS GAME: ARKANSAS 71, OKLAHOMA 64 (Dec. 21, 2014)
• The Razorbacks claimed their sixth win of the season away from Bud Walton Arena with a 71-64 win over Oklahoma. Playing in North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena for the first time since 2009, Arkansas improved its record to 16-7 all-time in games played in the state of Arkansas. Sophomores Kelsey Brooks and Jessica Jackson combined for 47 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore Khadijah West provided a spark off the bench, with three points, five rebounds, and four blocks in 13 minutes of play. Arkansas and Oklahoma combined to shoot 71 free throws as a total of 52 personal fouls were whistled.
POSTGAME NOTES (Oklahoma, Dec. 21)
• Kelsey Brooks and Jessica Jackson combined for 47 points, the second time this season they have combined for over 40 points (46 vs. Iowa, Nov. 28)
• Khadijah West set a new career-high with four blocks
• Arkansas outrebounded its ninth opponent in 11 games this season
• Arkansas improved its record to 6-0 this season in games played away from Bud Walton Arena (3-0 true road games, 3-0 neutral site)
Arkansas Basketball Notes
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 9.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. In fact, Wolff has tallied three double-doubles already this season, the most on the team. The Cabot, Ark., native very well could have had four more double-doubles added to her resume as she has been a double-double 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) and Missouri State (10 and 9). Wolff’s 9.3 boards per game leads the team and ranks third in the SEC.
Arkansas has shown an ability to put the clamps down defensively this season. In fact, the Razorbacks are holding opponents to 34.0 percent shooting from the field, ranking fourth in the conference and 23rd nationally while also holding opponents to 55.6. Furthermore, Arkansas is holding its opponents to just 0.84 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 11 games, 16 times the Razorback defense has held their opponent to without a field goal for over four minutes. Additionally, 12 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 seven double-doubles from four different players. In comparison, Arkansas tallied 10 double-doubles all of last season. Junior Melissa Wolff has accounted for three double-doubles this season, giving her five for her career, as she went for 17 and 13 against Nicholls, 14 and 10 against Savannah State and 15 and 11 against Richmond. In fact, she’s recorded five double-doubles in 12 career starts. Senior Jhasmin Bowen has tallied two this season, going for 12 and 10 against Nicholls and 17 and 12 against Tulsa, giving her five for her career. Sophomore Jessica Jackson has six career double-doubles, including one this season while sophomore Kelsey Brooks recorded her first career double-double Nov. 23 against Northwestern State.
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.
TOUGH ON THE ROAD
In non-conference play, the Razorbacks have 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 at this point in the season.
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.
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 58.0 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 sixth in the conference with an individual assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.12:1. Berna ranks second in the conference and 49th nationally, averaging 5.0 assists per game.
Senior Calli Berna stands in second place all-time in program history for assists with 556 career assists. Amy Wright (1998-02) owns the school record with 717 assists. If Berna averages 9.5 assists per game over the season’s final 18 regular-season contests, she will tie the school record. In addition, Berna’s 556 career assists ranks her sixth for current active assist leaders in the NCAA.
NOVEMBER’S QUICK START…
Arkansas finished the month of November with an unblemished 6-0 mark under first-year head coach Jimmy Dykes. The Razorbacks have perennially used the month of November to get their season off to a quick start. All-time, the Razorbacks have compiled a 136-30 (.819) record in November games.
CONTINUES IN DECEMBER
With the month of December featuring the close of the non-conference schedule, the Razorbacks own a 176-63 (.735) all-time record in games played in the last month of the year.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
Arkansas’ relentless team defense has resulted in a number of defensive stat lines, but the one thing it has not resulted in is personal fouls called against them. Arkansas is averaging just 16.8 personal fouls called against them a game, resulting in opponents averaging 16.4 free throw attempts per game. In fact, Arkansas has committed less fouls than eight of 10 opponents this season.
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 701-437 (.616). In those 39 years, Arkansas has advanced to postseason play a total of 21 times, including 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament.
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.
“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.’”
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.
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