FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team (3-0) prepares for an early-season test when it welcomes Middle Tennessee State (1-1) to Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday.
With both teams off to hot starts, the early non-conference matchup should prove tobe a good indicator as to where both squads are at. The Razorbacks have rolled through their first three opponents by an average margin of 41 points, whilethe Blue Raiders enteron the momentum of anotable 61-55 road winat Miami.
"It’s time to step up to a little bit different level of competition," head coach Tom Collen said. "Middle Tennessee State has got a great program. They’ve already got a big road win at Miami. They had Tennessee on the ropes. They’re very well coached and they do a great job. This is one of the big games on our schedule in the non-conference."
UA and MTSU meet for the fourth time on Tuesday, with the Razorbacks holding a 3-0 all-time record in the series. The two programs last faced one anotherduring the 2011 season,as UA pulled out a 59-53 road win inside the Murphy Center.
Wade Watch List candidate Ebony Rowe leads the Raiders into Fayetteville this time around,averaging 20 points and12.5 rebounds per game this season. The senior recorded a total of 16 double-doubles last season, including 10 in league play.
"She’s just really a hard kid to stop inside," Collen said of Rowe. "You can choose to try and bring two people at her, but they like to shoot the ball from the perimeter as well. Or, you can just guard her one-on-one and feel like you’re going to rotate people on her and keep the ball out of her hands. You’ve got to slow her down, because you’re not going to stop her. Even on the nights when she has a bad shooting night, she’s still going to score 15 or 20 points."
The Raiders return a total of nine student-athletes, including three starters,from a team that finished 25-8 last season and captured the Sun Belt championship. The Raiders carried the 12th seed into the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, but were outed in the firstround by fifth-seed Louisville, 74-49.
Collen is confident in the leadership and talent of his group to step up in a big game and respond tothe challenge.
"We’ve got Keira Peak, we’ve got Jhasmin Bowen and Calli Berna can certainly step up and score," Collen said. "They haven’t played as many minutes as they normally would because we’ve had so many blowout games that the minutes are pretty evenly distributed. We really haven’t seen them step up and shine like they can. We’ve seen glimpes of it."
Opening tip between Arkansas (3-0) and Middle Tennessee State (1-1) is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday inside Bud Walton Arena.
For more information on Arkansas women’s basketball, follow @RazorbackWBB on Twitter.