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Women’s basketball preps for SEC opener

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Women’s basketball preps for SEC opener

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.

MILLIONTH FAN THURSDAY NIGHT?:  In 33 years of women’s basketball at Arkansas, to date, 996,014 fans have attended Razorback games in Fayetteville.  Arkansas entered the season with 984,206 total recorded fans (attendance records prior to 1985 are incomplete), and have registered 11,808 so far in 2008-09 for nine home games.  Either the SEC opener with LSU or next Sunday’s game with Auburn should bring the 1,000,000th fan to a Razorback women’s basketball game.   There are 3,968 to go.

ABOUT THE TIGERS:  A rebuilding year in Baton Rouge for veteran coach Van Chancellor as the Tigers saw seven seniors with a four-year Final Four history depart.  The constant from the past to this year’s team is Allison Hightower, the Tigers’ leading scorer at 13.5 ppg.  Chancellor reloads with a host of highly touted freshmen, led by LaSondra Barrett (9.1 ppg), and an extremely balanced attack that has seen nine different players start games this season.

EVERYBODY CONTRIBUTES:  The LSU Tigers have everyone playing eight minutes a game, and 10 players clocking 11 or more minutes a game.  Only one player, Allison Hightower, is averaging over 30 minutes a game.

STOP US IF THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR:  The game for LSU runs through Allison Hightower, the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 ppg.  Hightower is the team leader in steals (20), second on the team in assists (29), second on the team in blocked shots (11) and third on the team in rebounds (4.4 rpg).  Hightower comes into the game ranked eighth in the SEC in scoring.

WELL, WE’VE GOT ONE OF THOSE, TOO:  Ceira Ricketts is tied for fifth in the SEC this week at 13.7 ppg. 

NO TRUTH TO THE RUMOR SHE ALSO DRIVES THE TEAM BUS:  Ceira Ricketts is Arkansas leading scorer, ranked top five in the SEC.  The freshman guard leads the SEC in steals with 3.0 per game.  She’s also 15th in league in rebounding, 4th in field goal percentage, 15th in assists, 9th in free throw percentage and 6th in assist-to-turnover ratio.  Equally impressive is where she isn’t ranked — in spite of all those performance numbers, Ricketts is not in the top 10 players in minutes played.

A GAME THAT WILLIE ROBINSON WOULD LOVE:  LSU leads the SEC in scoring defense, allowing only 52.2 ppg.  Arkansas is no slouch, ranking fifth with 57.7 ppg.  The teams are closer in their defensive field goal percentages, with LSU fourth at .358 and Arkansas fifth at .362.  They are also close in blocks (LSU 6th, Arkansas 7th).

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH:  And for these two teams, a free throw.  Arkansas is 12th in the SEC at 62.5% and LSU is 10th at 66.1%.  For the Razorbacks, that number is a bit misleading as they had a 58% mark before final exams, and have picked up their throws considerably since.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TREY:  The one big difference — and it’s maximum huge — is three-point production.  Arkansas leads the SEC in three-pointers made per game with 7.2 per game.  LSU has a better percentage than Arkansas at .344 vs. 318, but the Tigers have hit a mere 2.8 per game for dead flat last 12th.

RAZORBACKS IN CONFERENCE OPENERS:  Arkansas hasn’t been fortunate in the league opener, winning only four times.   The 4-13 overall mark gets better when we consider the home openers.  Razorbacks are 6-11 all-time in is first home SEC game.

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 begins a regular 16-game divisional schedule next season.

SERIES:  LSU leads with 23-9 and rides a 12-game winning streak over the Razorbacks.  In Fayetteville, LSU has a 9-6 lead.

LONG TIME SINCE THIS HAPPENED:  The last time neither team was ranked in this series was Feb. 10, 2002.  That wasn’t the last time Arkansas beat LSU (that was the top 10 showdown of #2 LSU and #10 Arkansas the next season).  Only eight meetings in the 24 game series featured unranked opponents.

ALL-UP FOR OPENING WEEK:  No byes for anyone in the first week of the SEC schedule this year with six games on Thursday and six on Sunday afternoon.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY:  Out in the plains of west Texas, it was a old-fashioned western of a game for the Razorbacks.  The Razorback defense was the good, forcing 21 turnovers and limiting the Lady Raider offense for most of the contest.  The bad was a 16-0 run allowed to Texas Tech after scrapping back into the first lead of the night.  And the ugly — a 2-of-11 start from the field leading to a 27.8% first half.

RICHARDSON ROCKS TECH:  Sophomore Brittney Richardson arrived in Lubbock with a season best of seven, and a career high of 14 from her freshman season.  The 6-1 forward had a season high with eight point in eight minutes by halftime.  It was her three-pointer that set the stage for the comeback, and then her 22-foot deep trey that gave Arkansas its first — and only — lead of the game.  She closed with five three-pointers and a new high of 18 points.

TREYS BLOWN AWAY:  The winds of west Texas saw the Razorbacks struggle at Texas Tech.  While Brittney Richardson had a 5-of-7  afternoon, but the rest of the Razorbacks combined for 2-of-16.

SOMETIMES, IT IS A VERY SIMPLE GAME:  Take care of the ball and score, you will win.  Of all the breakdown stats, these two stand out.  When Arkansas scores 61 or more points, 11-0; 60 or less, 0-4.  (Think we’re kidding?  Arkansas scored 60 on the dot at Texas Tech).  Also, the Razorbacks are 11-2 when they force 16 or more turnovers from the opponents.

FORD DEPARTS:  Charity Ford missed the Stetson game, back in the boot on her left leg.  A new series of scans have 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.

NO TEAMMATE SHOWDOWN:   Former high school teammates Charity Ford and Allison Hightower can shake hands Thursday, but Hightower’s the only starter with Ford out with a stress fracture.  The duo was considered the best backcourt in the state of Texas when they ran Arlington’s Juan Seguin.



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