ABOUT THE BEARCATS: Veteran coach Laurie Pirtle brings a young team of Bearcats to Fayetteville off to an outstanding 9-2 start on the season. Three Bearcats provide balanced scoring, led by super sophomores Shelly Bellman (15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Michelle Jones (10.9 ppg). Seniors Karen Twehues (9.1 ppg) and Treasure Humphries (11.5 ppg) provide the only upperclassmen for UC as the majority of the team has never faced Arkansas.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Arkansas arrives at the final home game of 2006 with a chance to break the school record for best start. The 2006-07 team is tied with the 1995-96 team at 13-1. The current six-game winning streak is the longest since a seven-game run by the Lady’Backs as a part of a 10-1 start for Susie Gardner two years ago. Arkansas is also off to an undefeated start at home with 5-0.
A CLASSIC SHOWDOWN: Cincinnati brings a very accurate team that likes to block out for the boards while Arkansas is a defense-first team that has created havoc in opponents. Arkansas goes deep down the bench with almost the entire team playing in every game and 13 or more minutes per game from 10 of the 12 players on the roster. The Bearcats have a tight rotation with four players starting almost every game, and the fifth starter limited to only three other players. Arkansas has no one over 30 minutes a game while UC has two, plus another starter close to 30.
WELCOME TO STUDIO 54: Arkansas has held its last two opponents to only 54 points. Add in another 54, a 56 and two 58’s, and the Lady’Back defense has the majority of the opponents stuck in the 50s. Arkansas is undefeated this year when it holds the opponent under 60 points — 9-0. Only two opponents managed to get more than 60 from Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena. And one of those, Portland State, didn’t benefit much from its 62-point effort considering the 35-point beatdown suffered by the Vikings.
THE HORROR OF CINCY: Arkansas was in a similiar situation the last time the two teams met, riding Susie Gardner’s previous best start at 10-2 before losing Kristin Moore to a knee injury midway through the contest.
NO BLINK IN UC: This is the second road game against a ranked opponent. Cincinnati gave Big East rival Louisville all the Cardinals wanted on Dec. 14 at Louisville. The then 16th-ranked Cardinals escaped with a 67-62 win.
CROWD FACTOR?: Cincinnati has yet to play before more than 1,600 fans this season. Arkansas hopes to follow up its largest crowd to date at Hot Springs with a big holiday break crowd for UC.
THREE IS ALL ABOUT THE TREY: Whether its No. 3 or No. 23, the number three figures into Arkansas’ trey turnaround. After a rocky start in the first four games, Arkansas has a pair of three-point gunners with almost identical numbers on the year. Senior starter Dominique Washington (#3) and freshman sub Donica Cosby (#23) each have 27 made treys through the first 14 games. Washington is more accurate, hitting 27-of-62 for .422, while Cosby is 27-of-72 for .375. They are backed up by three other players who have proved capable behind the arc. Last year’s team leader, Leslie Howard, started the season with a terrible slump, but has rallied to third on the team with 11 made off 55 for a .216 mark. Two more freshmen, Tanisha Smith (6-of-20) and Charity Ford (8-of-27) are next.
COULD IT BE THE RETURN OF THE HEADBAND?: Wendi Willits made headbands the rage for three-point little s in the late 1990s. Is it a coincidence that Arkansas’ current three-point stars wouldn’t be seen without their white headbands? In fact, Willits attempted only one game without her lucky headband — she left it at home — and the result was she didn’t play at Miss State, suffering a horrible stomach flu.
WHEN WILL THE COSBY SHOW PLAY WALTON ARENA?: Donica Cosby has put up three 20-point games to date as a freshman, but none have come at Bud Walton Arena. While Cosby gave the fans a taste of The Cosby Show with her second-half outburst against Portland State, the Fayetteville fans have yet to see a full-fledged Microwave performance.
COSBY TIES FRESHMAN MARK FOR THREE POINT GOALS: Wendi Willits set the freshman record in dramatic fashion, sinking seven in her season debut for Arkansas on Nov. 27, 1997, at Providence. Donica Cosby’s seven against Stephen F. Austin ties Willits, but her percentage — 70% — might be a freshman, perhaps all-time best, for 10 attempts. Cosby’s seven ranks as the third highest game — with all the higher games belonging to Willits. The Oklahoma star set the overall and sophomore record with nine against Georgia. Willits also had eight at UT as a sophomore for the second highest game. In her career, Willits also hit seven twice as a senior, which stands as the senior class record. The only other freshmen to approach Willits and Cosby were India Lewis (5) and Christy Smith (5).
CATS STINGY WITH THE BALL O’ YARN: No one is taking the yarn from the Bearcats without a fight as Cincinnati has a 1.1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but is forcing 2.5 extra turnovers from opponents. That’s similar to Arkansas with a 1:1 and +6.6 TO margin, but note a key difference. UC and Arkansas average the same number of mistakes (16.7), but the Lady’Backs force significantly more turnovers from opponents.
MODEL OF EFFICIENCY: Cincinnati is getting about the same amount of points, 76.5 ppg, as Arkansas, 75.4 ppg, but the Bearcats are doing it with their offense rather than Arkansas with defense. The Bearcats through 11 games have made almost the same amount of field goals, 28.4, as Arkansas has through 14 games, 27.5. This big difference? Arkansas has shot more times — significantly more — than UC to get to the same place. Arkansas is hitting only 41.2% to UC’s 45.5%.
CHRISTMAS IS A TIME FOR SHARING: And Arkansas’ players are giving individuals with eight players in double digit assists for the year and a ninth with nine assists. Brittney Vaughn leads with 82, but even Arkansas’ post players have significant assists numbers. For example, Lauren Ervin is third on the team with 22 so far this year. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s assists are concentrated in the hands of four players — Treasure Humphries (55), Shelly Belman (40) and Carla Jacobs (44) have the majority with Angel Morgan adding 36.
BATTLE ON THE BOARDS: One might not think of Cincinnati as a challenge for Arkansas’ post quartet of Lauren Ervin, Danielle Allen, Sarah Pfeifer and Whitney Jones, but the Bearcats are severely restricting opponent rebounding which results in a whopping +11.9 rebound margin. Opponents are getting one-and-out for the most part as the Bearcats are allowing less than 10 offensive rebounds per game.
BRING IT INSIDE: Don’t expect the Bearcats to contest a lot of shots. UC and its opponents combined (12+27=39) are just a little more than half of Arkansas’ season total for blocked shots (74). In fact, Arkansas has two players — Lauren Ervin (32) and Whitney Jones (13) — that have more rebounds than the entire Bearcat team. Put another way, guard Kendra Roberts who has played only 50 minutes this season for Arkansas would tie for fifth in blocked shots (1) for UC.
TV TIME FOR ARKANSAS: The SFA game is the first of two games produced by Cox Sports for the Lady Razorbacks. It will air same day delayed in the Cox Sports Arkansas market at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night, and will replay again on Thursday. The other game is at Auburn, and will be live. Lady Razorback TV and Hog Tails host Blair Cartwright will provide the play-by-play and former four-time all-SEC guard Kimberly Wilson Jenkins will handle color commentary. This is also the first of back-to-back TV games for Arkansas as the Lady’Backs’ next contest, versus Cincinnati at Walton Arena, will be a tape-delay production on local Fox affiliate KFTA.
GUT CHECKS: Brittney Vaughn and Lauren Ervin are the only two Lady’Backs to start every game so far this year. They have done so in spite of two of the most serious injuries suffered this season. Vaughn fell twice at Memphis, first injuring then aggravating a hip pointer bruise. Fighting through obvious pain, Vaughn not only started 48 hours later against SFA, she manged to turn in 18 minutes. Of course, Ervin stayed in the lineup in spite of a serious finger injury in Hawai’i. She had a compound dislocation of her left pinkie which required stitches on Thanksgiving day, one day before the tournament opener with Denver.
VERSUS CINCINNATI: Arkansas leads the series 2-0, with both meetings at Fifth Third Arena.
LAST MEETING WITH CINCINNATI: It was a homecoming game for Kristin Peoples, and the Columbus, Ohio, product did not disappoint with another career tying 18 points. Arkansas rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit into the lead, and UC tried to win the game by sending Peoples to the line. After a dismal first half that saw Arkansas miss all three of its free throw attempts, Peoples led the way with a 11-of-13 effort in the second half. While the 44-25 second half made it look easy, Arkansas took a crushing blow when Kristin Moore went down with a torn ACL with seven minutes left in the game to end her season.
NEVER-NEVERS: So far this year, Arkansas is undefeated when it holds the opponent under 60 (9-0), leads at halftime (11-0) and holding the opponent under 40% from the field (9-0).