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Regular season ends at Auburn

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Regular season ends at Auburn

ABOUT THE RAZORBACKS:   Arkansas begins its second season with Tom Collen as the head coach.  The Razorbacks sport one of the nation’s top 25 recruiting classes, and the six newcomers is the most for Arkansas’ women’s basketball team in several seasons.  The Razorbacks return a pair of senior leaders in Ayana Brereton and Whitney Jones.  Brereton was the team’s top scorer in Southeastern Conference games last season, and Jones was the top rebounder versus the SEC.  Newcomers like freshmen guards Ceira Ricketts and Lyndsay Harris have brought a new scoring power for the Razorbacks from the perimeter.

THINGS HAVE CHANGED IN 10 GAMES:  Not so much for Auburn, who has clinched no worse than a tie for the SEC regular season title.  For Arkansas, the Razorbacks are 6-4 since falling to the Tigers in Fayetteville.

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN:  For the second consecutive season, Arkansas closes the year at Auburn for the Tigers’ senior day festivities.

END OF AN ERA:  Today’s games mark the close of the 14-game schedule for SEC women’s basketball.  A new 16-game slate is set for next year, but at this moment not the regular divisional 16-game schedule as played by the men’s basketball teams.

ROAD HOGS:  Auburn is undefeated at Beard Eaves Memorial Coliseum at 11-0 this season, but the Razorbacks already have one top four SEC team’s lone home loss — Florida — and came within a rim-out of giving another top four team — Vanderbilt — their first home loss of the year.

ALL ON THE LINE FOR AUBURN:  Tigers hold their SEC title destiny in their own hands.  A win over Arkansas on Senior Day locks out Vanderbilt.  A loss and a Vanderbilt win over Tennessee results in a tie for the title and a two seed for the Tigers.

OH YEAH, THAT SENIOR DAY THING:  The SEC’s leading scorer, DeWanna Bonner at 20.8 ppg, will celebrate Senior Day with the SEC’s leading assist maker, Whitney Boddie at 8.1 apg.

OTHER LEADERS:  Ceira Ricketts looks like she’ll head into the clubhouse as the top steal maker in the SEC this year at 2.6 per game, but Auburn adds to Bonner and Boddie Alli Smalley who tops the league with 44.1% from three-point range.

THEY DON’T MAKE MISTAKES:  Auburn is one of the few teams in the SEC with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio with Whitney Boddie leading a 1.1:1 effort for the Tigers.  Boddie has an insane personal 2.5:1 A:T ratio.

TIGERS LEAD IN OFFENSE:  As with the first meeting, Auburn rocks the league offensive numbers with the top individual scorer in DeWanna Bonner at 20.4 ppg.  As a team, Auburn is scoring 77.4 ppg, a +16.4 margin, a 47.5% field goal and 39.8% three-point.

A RECORD STREAK:  Tom Collen did something no other Razorback women’s basketball coach has ever done – win five straight SEC regular season games — when Arkansas downed Alabama.  The Razorbacks have tied the longest win streak for SEC regular season games with four this season.  The 1995, 2000 and 2001 teams went for four.  The 1995 team on the last four games of the regular season, then won the opening game of the 1995 SEC Tournament to claim five overall wins.

FORD GETS THE LOVE:  The SEC named junior sixth player for the Razorbacks Charity Ford as the league’s Player of the Week.  Ford was Arkansas’ second leading scorer with 14 off the bench against Alabama; 19 off the bench at Florida.

FORD HITS SEC DOUBLE DIGITS:  Charity Ford is averaging 10.2 ppg against SEC opponents.

RICKETTS’ THUMB IS OK:  Ceira Ricketts had her thumb checked out during the week and will likely have tape on her left hand.

TIGERS WILL KEY ON CEIRA:  Ricketts made Razorback history with the first triple-double ever for a women’s basketball player at Arkansas against Auburn.

TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY:  Wasn’t that long ago (2005) that Marita Payne got the first triple double in Auburn basketball history with 15p/12r/13b.
WE’LL CALL IT 3v3:  A battle of the triple-double threats at point guard on Sunday as Auburn senior Whitney Boddie became the second Tiger to triple with the more conventional 13p/10r/12a against Sam Houston earlier this year.

ALMOST A DOUBLE WEEK:  Ceira Ricketts’ thumb was hurting toward the end of the Alabama game, but the freshman pulled down 10 rebounds against the Tide and eight points.  If she had hit one of her last free throws, she’d have averaged double-double for the week.  As it stands, Ricketts turned in 9.5 ppg and 11 rpg in the sweep of Florida and Alabama.

McCRAY AGAIN:  Hitting 60% from the field for nine points with seven rebounds in only 20 minutes, Ashley McCray was half of the bench power tandem against Alabama.  For the fourth time in the last five games, McCray and Charity Ford combined for 20 points or more off the bench for Arkansas.

IF THE SEC TOURNAMENT WERE PLAYED TODAY:  Arkansas would be the seventh seed by tiebreaker over Georgia and would play against Kentucky at 2:30 p.m.  The winner would play Vanderbilt at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

BUT THE SEC TOURNAMENT ISN’T PLAYED TODAY:  And Arkansas can be anywhere from the sixth to ninth seed.

THIS MUCH WE KNOW:  One game for North Little Rock is set — Tennessee plays Alabama at 6:30 p.m. to start the second session at ALLTEL Arena.  South Carolina will play at 9 p.m. in the 6-11 game, but the Gamecocks’ opponent is TBA.  Kentucky will play the 2:30 game as the 10th seed, but the Wildcat opponent is TBA.  Auburn or Vanderbilt are the top two seeds, Auburn holds its fate in its hands.

SO, TO REVIEW:  UT is the five seed, UK is the 10 seed, USC is the 11 seed and Alabama is the 12 seed.

NARROW RANGE OF OPPONENTS:  Looking at Arkansas’ seed options, the opening round opponent can only be Ole Miss, Kentucky or South Carolina.  The only way Arkansas faces USC is if the Razorbacks beat Auburn and move up into the six seed.

WHO DOES ARKANSAS PLAY AT SEVEN OR EIGHT?:  The seven seed plays the 10; eight plays nine.  If the Razorbacks are in the 7-10 game, it’s Kentucky.  If the Hogs fall into the 8-9, it’s Ole MIss.

TIEBREAKERS ELSEWHERE:  Tennessee loses any potential tie with LSU or Florida, but wins against Miss State; Vanderbilt has the tiebreaker on Auburn for the No. 1 seed; LSU holds the three-way on UF and Tennessee.

ARKANSAS GAME TIMES:  Arkansas can still play at noon (8-9), 2:30 (7-10) or 9 p.m. (6-11); the night game requires a win over Auburn.  A win over Auburn may still put Arkansas into the 7-10 afternoon slot.  By the number of possible scenarios, Arkansas is a 80-20 likelihood for an afternoon game.

IF ARKANSAS BEATS AUBURN AND . . . :
    Georgia beats Florida, Miss State loses to Alabama — a three-way tie at 7-7 among Arkansas, Georgia and Miss State.  In the first tiebreaker, Arkansas is 2-0, Georgia is 2-0 and Miss State is 0-2.  MSU is eliminated, resulting in a two-team tie with UG.  Arkansas beat UG head-up, so Arkansas is the six seed playing South Carolina.  UG is the seven, MSU the eight.
    Georgia beats Florida, Miss State beats Alabama — MSU is the six seed (locked as their only potential tie is Tennessee, who has tiebreaker on MSU).
    Georgia loses to Florida, Miss State loses to Alabama — Arkansas is the six seed in a two-way tie with Miss State at 7-7.  State is the eight seed, Georgia is the nine seed if Ole Miss lost to LSU; the 10 seed if Ole Miss gets into a 6-8 tie with UGA.
    Georgia loses to Florida, Miss State beats Alabama — Miss State is the six seed at 8-6 (see above re: UT), Arkansas is the seven seed at 7-7, UG is either the eight or nine (see above re: LSU).

IF ARKANSAS LOSES TO AUBURN AND . . . :
    (Remove MSU from all 6-8 scenarios, but we add in Ole Miss)
    Georgia loses Florida, Ole Miss beats LSU — a three-way tie at 6-8 among Arkansas, Georgia and Ole Miss.  In the first tiebreaker, Arkansas is 2-0, Ole Miss is 1-1 and Georgia is 0-2.  Razorbacks get the seven seed, then in the two-way with UM and UG, the Lady Bulldogs wear the road uniforms in the 8-9 game between UM and UG.
    Georgia loses to Florida, Ole Miss loses to LSU — straight up two-way tie at 6-8 with Arkansas and Georgia that gives the Razorbacks the seven seed and Georgia the eight.
    Georgia beats Florida — Lady Bulldogs leapfrog Arkansas for the seven at 7-7 (potentially the six if Miss State also loses to Alabama.  There is no need to factor Ole Miss here as Arkansas is the eight seed regardless.

FUN WITH STATS:  The league voted last year to go to a 16-game schedule next year, but may not play the traditional divisional set-up.  Going into the last three dates of the final 14-game schedule, here’s a snapshot of what the standings would look like if we were in divisions today.

EASTERN DIVISION
        SEC ONLY        OVERALL
    W    L    PCT    W    L    PCT
Vanderbilt    10    3    .769    21    7    .750
Florida    9    4    .692    23    5    .821
Tennessee    8    5    .615    19    9    .679
Georgia    6    7    .462    16    12    .571
Kentucky    4    9    .308    14    14    .500
S. Carolina    2    11    .154    10    16    .385
WESTERN DIVISION
        SEC ONLY        OVERALL
    W    L    PCT    W    L    PCT
Auburn    11    2    .846    26    2    .929
LSU    9    4    .692    16    9    .640
Miss. State    7    6    .538    20    8    .714
ARKANSAS    6    7    .462    17    11    .607
Ole Miss    5    8    .384    16    12    .571
Alabama    1    12    .077    13    15    .464

IF IT’S NOT ONE THING, IT’S ANOTHER:  Year in, year out, SEC critics complain it’s just a one team conference like any other — Tennessee and its eight national titles.  So in a season where the true balance of the league is obvious — the Lady Vols not only would be out of the overall race but a mere third today in the Eastern Division, the argument that the league is predictable or lacks depth simply does not hold up.

SUBMITTED FOR YOUR APPROVAL:
CEIRA RICKETTS, FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
CHARITY FORD, SIXTH PLAYER
If ever a pair of players made better cases at Arkansas, we don’t remember them.  Ricketts is the four-time Freshman of the Week for the SEC and leads Arkansas in scoring.  Ford has come off the bench all season, and in her eight SEC games has made a demonstrative impact on Arkansas’ offense.  Ford is one of two Razoracks currently scoring more points against SEC opponents than against the full slate.  Throwing out a less than one-minute appearance with Tennessee, Arkansas is 3-4 with Ford; 0-3 without her.

FORD = CLUTCH:  Charity Ford’s long-distance three against Ole Miss was by all persons — UA players, Tom Collen, UM head coach — the game changer.  That was two in a row for Ford, who’s floater with USC proved the game winner with 30 seconds left.

RICKETTS = VERSATILE:  Just when people thing Ceira Ricketts is all scoring and steals, the freshman dishes the ball to Charity Ford for both of her game changers last week.

GIVE HER FIVE — RICKETTS FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK AGAIN:  In recognition of her point guard work and rebounding, Ceira Ricketts became only the second player in SEC history to win five freshman of the week awards.  The other?  Last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year, Angie Bjorkland of Tennessee.

WHEN THE DEAD ZONE MEETS THE CLUTCH:  In the past three games, it is all about the clutch.  Florida didn’t get a Dead Zone break, but cut Arkansas’ lead to one late in the game.  The Gators fouled, but Arkansas made just enough in the final four minutes to take a double-digit win.  Ole Miss and Arkansas stumbled through the Dead Zone with neither team gaining ground, but the Lady Rebels finally pulling back to within five after trailing at half.  But when Arkansas hit the four-minute mark, it was all Razorback starting with Charity Ford’s clutch three.  The Razorbacks went on an 11-2 close to the game with Ole Miss.  In the previous game, Arkansas overcame its first Dead Zone slump with South Carolina.  The Gamecocks used a 7-2 push to gain a five-point margin and held the lead during the entire dreaded space between the second and third media time outs.  It was Arkansas down the stretch as the Razorbacks went 10-6 in the last four minutes to defeat Carolina.

IF THE TOURNAMENT WAS PLAYED TODAY: Arkansas’ seed remained the same, but thanks to a wild Thursday of upsets, everything else around the Razorbacks did.  Arkansas is the eight seed today by a half-game, but would face Kentucky in the 8-9 game at noon on Thursday.  The winner would have Vanderbilt, who has tiebreaker for the top seed on Auburn, on Friday at noon.

MATINEES FOR RAZORBACKS?:  When and who remains to be seen, but with two games to play, Arkansas has locked itself into no worse than the 10th seed — guaranteeing an afternoon at ALLTEL.  Seeds 7-8-9-10 play the afternoon games at ALLTEL Arena in North Little Rock.  Alabama and USC cannot catch.

WIN YOUR WAY INTO THE NIGHT:  Arkansas win at Florida combined with losses by other teams on Thursday does open the door to the possibilities of returning to a night game, but as the six seed.  The Razorbacks would need one more win plus significant help or two more wins to get back to the 6-11 game.

FUN WITH NUMBERS:  With three playing dates for the SEC left, here we go —
    IF ARKANSAS SPLITS ITS FINAL GAMES
    At 6-8, the Razorbacks are most likely the 8 or 9 seed, playing at noon, but could be the 7 facing 10 at 2:30.
    IF ARKANSAS BEATS BOTH BAMA, AU
    At 7-7, the Razorbacks could rise as high as  the six, but it depends upon the potential teams tied at 7-7 that include either LSU, Tennessee and Georgia, plus MSU.  LSU and UT play next week in a game that potentially decides the fourth and final Thursday bye (both teams holding tiebreaker on Arkansas); UG and LSU have yet to play and the loser is likely out of 7-7 contention.  Only MSU has clear sailing of the other teams to 7-7, but Arkansas has that tiebreaker.
    IF ARKANSAS LOSES BOTH BAMA, AU
    Razorbacks have scenarios for both the 8-9 and 7-10 games, but this time as the team wearing Cardinal in both games.  Again, it depends on who falls into a 5-9 tie.  Among the potentials are Ole Miss, UK, UG and USC.

MUCH REVEALED SUNDAY:  On first glance, it might not look like Sunday has the impact that Thursday’s upsets and showdowns, but for Arkansas, the key to the future lies in this weekend.  A loss by Georgia moves the Lady Bulldogs into serious tie potential with Arkansas, and a win by Miss State at Tennessee puts those Lady Bulldogs almost out of reach at seven wins.  The reverse is true — a Lady Vol win ends the chance for a 7-7 tie with Arkansas.  The same for LSU as it faces Kentucky.  But a Wildcat win brings UK into tie-range of Arkansas and the advantage is to the Wildcats.  If Ole Miss wants to keep pace with Arkansas, the Lady Rebels must beat Vandy.  The only game that really does not effect Arkansas directly is USC and Florida.

EVEN UP THURSDAY:  Half the league is off along with Arkansas next Thursday to get everyone on 13 games heading into next Sunday’s regular season finales.

THESE HOGS SEE NO SHADOW:  This February, the Razorbacks have thrown off the dark gloom of four more weeks without a win as Arkansas got its first win in the month of February since Feb. 13, 2005, at Georgia.  That snaps a pair of concurrent 27-game streaks — 27 overall since the Feb. 13 game was against Georgia Tech and 27 SEC since Arkansas won the previous game on Feb. 10 against Alabama.  Arkansas then added its first home win since that same Alabama game of 2005.

HOWDY PARTNERS:  LSU is the “rival” or travel partner for Arkansas.  Auburn is the Razorback’s SEC West rotating partner for this season.  Arkansas returns to Auburn on the final day of the regular season.  Florida is Arkansas’ Eastern rotator.

LET’S EXPLAIN THIS, FOR THE LAST TIME:  The SEC women’s teams do not play the divisional schedule as the men’s teams, and have a 14-game schedule that breaks down this way:  once against the entire conference plus home-and-home with the rival/travel partner, home-and-home with a rotating Western Division member and home-and-home with a rotating Eastern Division team.  For Arkansas, that means home-and-home with LSU (rival), Auburn (West rotator) and Florida (East rotator).  Why the last time?  The league voted to begin a 16-game schedule next season; however, the exact format is now being decided.

TOP FROSH:  It seems that 2009 is the year of the freshman in the SEC with huge recruiting classes playing significant roles at several schools.  Of all the freshman, Arkansas’ Ceira Ricketts has established herself as the statistical leader of a talented class.

            OVERALL — ALL GAMES
    POINTS SCORED: 365 points
        (#1 Freshman, 9th Overall)
    SCORING AVG: 13.0 ppg (#1 Freshman, 9th)
    REBOUNDS: 6.4 rpg (#2 Freshman, 10th)
    FG %: .452 (#1 Freshman-6th)
    ASSISTS: 3.9 apg (#1 Freshman-8th)
    STEALS: 2.4 spg (#1 Freshman-1st)
    ASST-TO RATIO: 1.6 (#1 Freshman-4th)
    DEF. BOARDS: 4.3 (#1 Freshman-5th)
    MINUTES PLAYED: 31.5 (#1 Freshman-8th)

BEWARE THE DEAD ZONE:  The Clif Notes — when Arkansas skids between the second (12:00 and under) and third (8:00 and under) time outs, bad things happen.  The two games of 2009 without that opponent run?  Miss State and Georgia.  The two SEC wins to date; same.

BEWARE THE DEAD ZONE, UNABRIDGED:  For the Arkansas Razorbacks, the second media time out (the under 12:00 break) marks the start of an offensive black hole that started just after New Year’s Day.  Roughly around the 12 to 9 minute mark, Arkansas has suffered game-deciding runs.  The hallmark of the runs are a lack of Arkansas offense, not an outpouring of opponent production.  Throughout, the Arkansas defense is holding teams to “walks” rather than runs.  Consider the two most recent losses.  Tennessee held Arkansas scoreless for almost seven minutes starting at 8:33, but could only manage 11 points.  Auburn limited Arkansas for almost five minutes starting at 11:50, but could only advance the margin eight points (11-3).  Still, the second half stall has cost Arkansas five straight — Tennessee (11-0), Auburn (11-3), Kentucky (10-2), LSU (8-0, after an earlier 12-0 to start the half) and Texas Tech (15-1).  Florida had a 12-0 run in the zone to push to its largest lead.  The Razorbacks took one at Vanderbilt (10-1) that also gave the Commodores their largest lead of 15; however, the Razorbacks returned the favor with a 19-4 close to overtime.  Proof in the pudding?  Arkansas two SEC wins had no Dead Zone — a 9-4 UA advantage in the time slot at Miss State; and a 10-4 UA performance with Georgia.  To Arkansas credit, in every game, the Razorbacks made comebacks to narrow the gap, and played even basketball the final four minutes of each game.  However, the damage was done by the final media time out near the 4:00 mark.

DEFENSE DOWN THE STRETCH:  Opponents must exploit the Dead Zone, because if they don’t, Arkansas defense will clamp down hard at the close of the game.  The pressure is stronger on the road as the Razorbacks have allowed only one field goal in the final five minutes of the last three road conference games.  Vanderbilt needed overtime to escape the 7:14 vise.  Kentucky used free throws to overcome a 6:33 close without a field goal.  Miss State had two free throws but no field goals in the last 4:02.  Georgia had one field goal and got run 13-3 in the final three minutes.

FORD GAME-TO-GAME UNTIL MSU:  Charity Ford missed the Auburn game, and was a game-time decision until Miss State.  She came off the bench for a season-high at Kentucky.  The junior guard had been out with a leg injury that she suffered during the holidays.  She missed the Stetson game, back in the boot on her left leg.  A new series of scans revealed an acute stress fracture, and she will be on the sidelines for a while.  Originally, she missed the game with Missouri, and did not dress after her leg injury against Dartmouth.  As dramatic as it appeared when Ford collided with a Dartmouth player and landed awkwardly on her left leg, the junior guard got a clean bill of health at the doctors.  She returned to the court for Western Illinois, turning in 24 minutes.  However, pain returned and MRIs were ordered, revealing the fracture.

RICKETTS FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK, AGAIN:  Ceira Ricketts earned her fourth league freshman honor after Arkansas split with LSU and Georgia.  Ricketts turned in her second double-double with points and assists of the season with 12 points and 10 assists at Georgia. She was Arkansas’ leading scorer earlier in the week at LSU with 11 points.  Ricketts also enjoyed her best week of three-point shooting against conference opponents, hitting 33% from behind the arc.  For those scoring at home, the most freshman of the year weeks belongs to Tennessee’s Angie Bjorkland, who picked up the award five times last season.

ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK:  Ceira Ricketts was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for the second consecutive week.  The freshman from Louisville, Ky., averaged 18.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg for the past week, including a near double versus then No. 10 Tennessee with 22 points and nine rebounds, then 13 points as Arkansas’ top-scoring starter at Miss State for the Razorbacks first conference win of the year.  The freshman also led all players in the game with six assists and three steals vs. UT.  At Miss State, Ricketts had 13 points and four steals as the top scoring starter for the Razorbacks.  Ricketts led the team in assists in Arkansas first win against a SEC opponent.  The win at State broke a five-game losing streak dating back to the Jan. 3.  For the week, Ricketts exceeded her season averages and SEC-game only averages with 18.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 and 3.5 spg.  She becomes the first Razorback to win three SEC weekly honors in the same season.

RICKETTS MAKES HISTORY:  Freshman Ceira Ricketts became the first women’s basketball player in Arkansas history to record a triple double in a regular season game.  We’ll make the caveat of known triple as the early year box scores are sketchy or nonexistent.  Nevertheless, since modern NCAA era, only a handful of Razorbacks have come close.  Most notable — Sally Moore was within an assist in 1990 against Oklahoma (18p/13r/9a) and Brittney Vaughn was within a rebound in 2006 against St. Louis (13p/9r/10a).  Research continues to confirm, but the search of the likely suspects and old records Sunday evening turned up no evidence to not give the mark to the freshman.

RICKETTS TIES ASSIST RECORDS:  Ceira Ricketts’ 12 assists tied the Arkansas freshman class record for most assists in a game.  Amy Wright held the mark with 12 against LSU in 1999.  Ricketts also shares the UA mark for most assists in a regular season SEC game with Wright and Rochelle Vaughn, who had her 12 against Georgia in 2004.  For the game, Ricketts had as many assists as #6 Auburn had as a team.

AND, RICKETTS GETS FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK:  In recognition of the above notations, freshman Ceira Ricketts was selected the SEC Freshman of the Week.  It is her second FOTW honor (Nov. 26), and makes her the first repeat freshman honoree in Razorback history.  Additionally, she’s only the third Arkansas player to pick up two “of the week” awards from the SEC for women’s basketball.  Two seasons ago, Lauren Ervin had a pair of player of the weeks and Shameka Christon had one player of the week and a co-player back in 2004.

FIRST TIME — RICKETTS NAMED SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK:  After a week that saw her move from sub to starter to team’s leading scorer, Ceira Ricketts was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for Nov. 24.  Ricketts had double digits in all three games for the week, notching then career highs in points (18, SMU), rebounds (9, Northwestern), assists (4, High Point) and steals (5, High Point).  Ricketts was Arkansas leading scorer on average for the three-game run, and emerged as the team’s overall leading scorer with 13 ppg for the season.  She averages 4 steals per game to start the season.  Ricketts is the third Razorback named freshman of the week.  The last time was Donica Cosby from Nov. 2006.  Her teammate, Whitney Jones, was the first-ever SEC freshman of the week back in December 2005.

FRESHMEN STARTERS:  Lyndsay Harris got the nod to start against La-Monroe, making her the first freshman to start on opening day since Tanisha Smith in 2005 as the Razorbacks tipped off the year at Clemson.

MILLIONTH FAN FOR TENNESSEE:  In 33 years of women’s basketball at Arkansas, to date, 999,286 fans have attended Razorback games in Fayetteville.  The season-high 3,916 for Tennessee brought the millionth fan to Razorback women’s basketball at home.  Arkansas entered the season with 984,206 total recorded fans (attendance records prior to 1985 are incomplete), and registered 18,996 so far in 2008-09 for 14 home games.

2008-09 SIGNEES:

DARSHAE BURNSIDE:  One of the West Coast’s best rebounders, Darshae Burnside of San Bernadino, Calif., was the first women’s basketball player of the early period to sign a National Letter of Intent with the University of Arkansas.  The 6-3 center-forward from Cajon High School in San Bernadino is ranked top 100 by most of the prep prospect services.  She was singled out by ESPN.com as one of the top players at the Nike Regional Skills Academy in May.  Burnside is the second California prep star to sign with Arkansas under Collen.  Last fall, Arkansas signed Jamesha Townsend from the San Diego area.  Arkansas’ recent star junior college transfer, Lauren Ervin, was from the Los Angeles area, and last spring was a draft pick of the Connecticut Sun.  Last season, Burnside averaged 15.5 ppg and 16.1 rpg for the Cajon.  The Cowgirls to the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section 2A title with a 30-4 overall record.  In the state title game, Burnside had 12 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots as CHS defeated Ayala, 51-47.  Only two teams held her to single digits, with a season high of 33 points against Ontario (Calif.).  As a sophomore, Burnside was first-team all-state as one of the top rebounders in the country and the No. 4 shot-blocker in the state of California.

SARAH WATKINS:  Forward Sarah Watkins is one of the nation’s top 50 players.  The 6-3 Watkins gives Arkansas a pair of top-flight post players in the 2009 recruiting class.  California post player Darshae Burnside opened the early signing period for the Razorbacks last week  Watkins is rated top 50 or top 100 by almost every notable girl’s basketball service.  ESPN listed the versatile center as the No. 42 recruit in the country (and the No. 7 forward in the country), touting her ability to score from two feet to 24 feet.   Already a 1,000-point career scorer by the close of her junior year, Watkins led Houston High in Germantown, Tenn., to the 8-AAA regional championship in basketball.  Watkins averaged 23 ppg, 10 rpg and 5 blocks last season.  She broke the HHS single-game scoring record last year with 43 points against rival Germantown, pulling down 18 rebounds with eight blocks.  As a junior, Watkins was named MVP of the regional tournament, along with all-metro Memphis and several other tournament teams.  The 6-3 post was also selected for both Nike Skills Academy and adidas Top Ten.  Her AAU team, Memphis Elite, is a fixture on the national tournament scene.  Along with her basketball talent, Watkins is a member of Houston High’s two-time district and regional golf champion squads.  As a senior, she was a scoring member of HHS team that was third at the state Class AAA championship; seventh her junior year.



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