FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas head women’s basketball coach Tom Collen hopes the second time is the charm Thursday as the Razorbacks host Ole Miss in Southeastern Conference action in Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks (11-14, 3-9 SEC) welcome the Lady Rebels (15-10, 6-6 SEC) meeting them for the second time this year. Arkansas is coming off a pair of impressive road wins, first at Auburn followed by an 18-point come-from-behind win at South Carolina Sunday.
“This team has worked hard all year,” Collen said. “They really enjoyed the victories and I think they believe in themselves a little bit more. It was a great road trip for us and a chance to springboard into the final weeks of the season.”
Despite the Razorbacks’ struggles in the early part of the SEC schedule, Arkansas seems to have turned a corner with the recent wins. The final four regular season games all come against teams that Arkansas has already faced and Collen believes the second meeting will be a good measure of how far the Razorbacks have come.
“The wins last week show that the goals we have set are attainable,” Collen said. “We have to continue to attack it one game at a time.”
Arkansas’ youth continues to mature and improve with each passing week. The play in the paint has been one of the most noticeable improvements capped off by freshman Quistelle Williams earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors Monday.
Williams along with sophomore Ashley Daniels, freshman Sarah Watkins and junior transfer Skye Rees are handling the bulk of the inside duties with senior Ashley McCray sidelined with an injury recently.
In addition, Arkansas’ sophomore guards, C’eira Ricketts and Lyndsay Harris are gaining confidence in the Razorbacks inside game.
“We are a young team and we make a lot of mistakes,” Collen said, “but they continue to learn from their mistakes. This team enjoys the energy from the crowd at home and away and never gives up.”
Arkansas is on the short side of the 2009-10 schedule. The Razorbacks host Ole Miss Thursday and Alabama Sunday in the final two home events of the season. Arkansas then has road games at LSU and Georgia prior to the SEC Tournament.
“Our goals at this point include seeing how high we can finish in the last eight games of the season,” Collen said. “Right now we’re 2-2 and we’re looking to add to that. We want to beat as many of the teams that we lost to in the first time around as we can. We want to play the role of the spoiler and we know that for us to move up in the conference we have to prove we can play the teams in the middle of the pack.”
In addition to Thursday’s game, fans will enjoy hoop heads and pom pom give-aways. Fans with a men’s basketball ticket from the Feb. 17 game will be admitted for half price to the women’s game and there is a Fan of the Century presentation and a Red Panda performance scheduled for halftime.