The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team opens its 24th season of competition in the Southeastern Conference Friday evening on the road at Ole Miss. Friday’s game will be the first SEC game of the year for both squads, as Arkansas concluded the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 10-2 mark, while Ole Miss’ record stands at 10-3.
RAZORBACK BASKETBALL FIRST FIVE
1. SEC OPENERS
The Razorbacks open their 24th year of basketball competing in the SEC, owning an all-time record of 117-198 (.371). Arkansas is 1-12 (.077) when the initial conference game is on the road. Opening conference play on an away court is nothing new to the Razorbacks, as this will be the fourth time in the last five seasons the Hogs will travel to begin SEC play.
2. HOGS IN NON-CON
Arkansas wrapped up the non-conference portion of its schedule Dec. 29 under first-year head coach Jimmy Dykes having compiled a 10-2 mark. 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.
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 team and the conference in scoring with 17.3 per game. She also leads the team in steals per game (2.1), is second in assists per game (3.3), and is fourth on the team in rebounds per game (6.1). Brooks has started and scored in double figures in all 12 games this season but has especially been on a tear since Nov. 28. In fact, Brooks is averaging a team-best 19.4 points to go along with 5.6 rebounds per contest during that eight-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 17.3 this season.
4. BALANCED ATTACK
The Razorbacks have demonstrated a balanced offensive attack this season, with four players averaging double-digit points (Brooks 17.3, Jackson 14.4, Bowen 11.8, Wolff 10.1). In fact, Arkansas is one of only two teams, along with Kentucky, across the SEC to have four or more players averaging in double figures. Arkansas has received double digit scoring from at least three players in 11 of 12 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 +13.9 edge on the boards, leading the SEC and ranking seventh in the country. In fact, Arkansas has outrebounded 10 of 12 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 first in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage at 74.9 percent.
SCOUTING OLE MISS
• The Rebels enter Friday’s contest with a 10-3 mark, including 8-2 at home. The two losses at home came to Baylor and to Middle Tennessee State, a team that Arkansas went on the road to defeat in November.
• Senior Tia Faleru averages a double-double for the Rebels, as she is the conference’s second-leading scorer at 16.5 points per game and is the conference’s leader in rebounds per game at 10.5.
• Despite having the conference’s leading rebounder, Ole Miss ranks last in the SEC in rebounding margin (+1.9)
• The Rebels are fifth in the country and lead the SEC in steals per game (13.9), leading to a +7.2 advantage in turnover margin
• Ole Miss is shooting 39.4 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point distance.
• Arkansas trails the all-time series with Ole Miss, 14-24, but has won four of the last five meetings. Arkansas owns a 2-14 mark in games played in Oxford.
• The last meeting between the two schools came in the 2014 SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga., as Ole Miss came out victorious, 63-62, and ended the Razorbacks season.
• Matt Insell (Middle Tennessee State, ’07) is in his second season as the head coach, owning a mark of 22-23 (489). The Rebels finished 12-20 in his first season a year ago. Insell is the son of Middle Tennessee State’s head women’s basketball coach Rick Insell.
PREVIOUS GAME: ARKANSAS 77, GRAMBLING STATE 35 (Dec. 29, 2014)
The Razorbacks rounded out non-conference play and picked up its 10th win of the season with a rout of Grambling State. Arkansas raced out to a 36-point halftime lead. All nine Razorbacks saw plenty of court time, as every player on the roster played at least 15 minutes, scored and grabbed a rebound. Four Razorbacks were in double-digit scoring, led by 15 from sophomore Kelsey Brooks. Freshman McKinley Bostad scored a career-high 12 points coming off the bench. Arkansas’ bench was responsible for 34 points, a season-high. Junior Melissa Wolff recorded her fourth double-double of the season, and the sixth of her career, as she paired 12 points and 10 rebounds.
POSTGAME NOTES (Grambling State, Dec. 29)
• Arkansas improved to 7-0 all-time against Grambling State
• Sophomore Kelsey Brooks has scored in double figures in all 12 games this season after she tallied 15 points.
• Freshman McKinley Bostad recorded a career-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including seven in the first half
• Sophomore Khadijah West pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds
• Junior Melissa Wolff recorded her fourth double-double of the season and the sixth of her career, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Arkansas is 6-0 in games in which she records a double-double.
• Arkansas held Grambling to just 10 first-half points, the lowest point total the Razorbacks have allowed in any half this season. Giving up only 10 points in a half also marked the first time Arkansas has held an opponent to under 15 points in a half since holding Mississippi Valley State to 15 on Dec. 28, 2013.
• Arkansas additionally held Grambling to just 20 percent shooting in the first half, the lowest percentage Arkansas has allowed in a half this season and the lowest since holding Mississippi Valley State to 20 percent in a half on Dec. 28, 2013.
• Arkansas has outrebounded 10 of its 12 opponents this season, after holding a 65-28 edge on the glass against Grambling.
Arkansas Basketball Notes
Arkansas has received solid play from a pair of sophomores. Kelsey Brooks and Jessica Jackson lead the team in scoring, averaging 17.3 and 14.4 points per game, respectively. In fact, Jackson and Brooks have accounted for 46.2 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).
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 10.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. In fact, Wolff has tallied four double-doubles already this season, the most on the team. Wolff has six career double-doubles, and Arkansas is 6-0 in games when she records a double-double. 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 33.4 percent shooting from the field, ranking third in the conference and 13th nationally while also holding opponents to 53.9. Furthermore, Arkansas is holding its opponents to just 0.810 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 12 games, 20 times the Razorback defense has held their opponent to without a field goal for over four minutes. Additionally, 14 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 eight double-doubles from four different players. In comparison, Arkansas tallied 10 double-doubles all of last season. Junior Melissa Wolff has accounted for four double-doubles this season, giving her six for her career, as she went for 17 and 13 against Nicholls, 14 and 10 against Savannah State, 15 and 11 against Richmond, and 12 and 10 against Grambling. In fact, she’s recorded six double-doubles in 14 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.
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 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.
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 58.4 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 2.15:1. Berna ranks second in the conference, averaging 4.7 assists per game.
Senior Calli Berna stands in second place all-time in program history for assists with 557 career assists. Amy Wright (1998-02) owns the school record with 717 assists. If Berna averages 10.0 assists per game over the season’s final 16 regular-season contests, she will tie the school record. In addition, Berna’s 557 career assists ranks her sixth for current active assist leaders in the NCAA.
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.
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 16.4 personal fouls called against them a game, resulting in opponents averaging 15.9 free throw attempts per game. In fact, Arkansas has committed less fouls than 10 of 12 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 702-437 (.616). 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.