Arkansas returns home for Grambling tonight

ABOUT THE LADY RAZORBACKS: The 30th edition of the Arkansas women’s basketball team takes the floor this season with head coach Susie Gardner excited about her third Lady’Back team. Arkansas returns at least several starters from last year’s team that went 17-14 overall, reaching the second round of the Women’s NIT.
ABOUT THE LADY TIGERS: Grambling is very much an unknown quantity for the Lady Razorbacks as the Lady Tigers have not played a game since the opening week of the season. Grambling took a pair of wins in the first weekend over Nicholls State and Hampton, but had its games originally set for the Bayou Classic Tournament cancelled.
CHANGES ANTICIPATED FOR TUESDAY: Going with the same starting five the first four games, Susie Gardner plans to shake things up in practice Monday with the probability of changes in the starting five players.
A FLURRY OF GAMES: Arkansas has three home games in the next week starting with Grambling State on Tuesday, followed by Tulsa on Thursday and UMKC on Sunday. This starts the busiest part of the Lady’Back schedule as Arkansas takes off next Monday for Western Kentucky. In all from Friday’s game with Oregon, Arkansas plays six games in 12 days. That’s almost 1/4 of the entire season in less than two weeks.
THOMPSON TO MISS GSU: Sheree Thompson is headed back home for a family emergency and will not play against Grambling. At this time, her status remains day-to-day.
THE GOOD NEWS — A PAIR OF FAST STARTS: Arkansas was rolling at McArthur Court, hitting three of its first four three-pointers to build an 11-2 lead to begin the game against Oregon. The Lady’Backs followed with the best half shooting the ball in just over four years at Portland State.
THE BAD NEWS — A PAIR OF SLOW FINISHES: The Lady’Back offense stalled with only three field goals in the final minutes of the first half to allow the Ducks to catch and pass Arkansas by intermission, 33-30. Same story, second verse at Portland State as the Lady’Backs hit only 21.6% for the second half and went on a two-minute per field goal pace down the stretch.
LADY TIGERS BRING THE O: With three players averaging not just double figures but almost 20 per game, Grambling has some powerful individual players. Sanora Cole and Juleen Smith each racked up 30 at home against Hampton in the last game, while Dominique Headd scored 23 in the season opener with Nicholls State.
LAST GAME FOR GRAMBLING: The Lady Tigers outscored Hampton, 91-80, in a barn burner to for Grambling’s home opener back on Nov. 22. Due to the loss of the Bayou Classic, this was GSU’s last game. Sanora Cole got 30 points — including 12-of-14 at the line — and fellow starter Juleen Smith also scored 30. In a game with three technical fouls assessed to players and 64 personal fouls, free throws proved the difference as the Lady Tigers hit 34-of-48 to only 25-of-42 for Hampton.
SOUND FAMILIAR: Grambling got out of the gate fast against Nicholls State, leading 40-22 at half. The Lady Colonels rallied in the second, holding GSU to only 21 points, but lost 61-54 in the season opener for both teams on Nov. 19.
GSU SHUFFLES LINE-UP: Paris Hawkins and Amber Brandon dropped out of the starting five for Sanora Cole and Lacy Cormier in game two.
GETTING TO THE LINE: In only two games, Grambling has 51 made free throws. Compare it to Arkansas in four games at 63.
BIG BENCH, SMALL NUMBERS: The Lady Tigers have a roster of 18 (although only 15 fit on the game program), but in the first two games have only 35 points from the subs — 13 of that belongs to current starter Sanora Cole who came off the bench at Nicholls State.
MORE GOOD NEWS — REBOUNDING: After facing three teams with taller rosters, Arkansas is almost even on the boards with opponents, sporting only a -0.7 margin after four games.
MORE BAD NEWS — WHO’S REBOUNDING: Sheree Thompson leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game. Kudos to the 5-10 guard, but Arkansas needs more rebounding from its traditional inside players. Unfortunately, Arkansas will be without its leading rebounder for Grambling due to a family emergency.
WHITNEY JONES, ALL-AROUNDER: If she was a gymnast, freshman post player Whitney Jones would be an all-around performer. Jones is averaging double-digits for points, 12.0 ppg, and is second on the team in rebounding, 5.8 rpg. Those one would expect from the starting post, but Jones is the team leader in steals at 3.0. She’s also tops in blocks with 2.0 for the season and 4.0 in the past two games.
DEFENSE FLEXES ON VIKINGS: The defensive end gave the offensive end every chance in the world at Portland State, holding the Vikings to only five free throws in the last five minutes of the game. In fact, PSU made a single point in the last three minutes of the game.
SACKED BY THE HORDE: Portland State forced Arkansas into a season-high 28 turnovers, the majority belonging to the Lady’Backs’ starting guard trio of Sheree Thompson (6), Kristin Peoples (4) and Rochelle Vaughn (4).
AND THE GODDESS OF WAR: Kahli is the Hindu goddess of war, and freshman Kelsey Kahle lived up to that billing with a career and team high 24 points and 15 rebounds for Portland State. Kahle now tops the Arkansas opponent highs for points, rebounds, assists, field goals and free throws.
WHAT WE’RE DEALING WITH HERE IS A FAILURE TO CONVERT: Arkansas had three chances in the last 40 seconds to regain the lead at Portland State, but missed four shots — two free throws and two field goals.
THOMPSON NEAR DOUBLE: Sheree Thompson was credited with 10 rebounds at Portland State to lead the team and give her a second career high for caroms in the first four games of this season. Combined with eight points, the senior guard had her best shot at a career double of her career at Arkansas.
SERIES: Arkansas leads the series 4-0.
LAST TIME WITH GRAMBLING: Arkansas faced the Lady Tigers in the Houston Invitational in 1991.
LAST TIME IN FAYETTEVILLE: The last scheduled meeting of these two teams was back in 1990, but icy weather in north Louisiana prevented the Lady Tigers from arriving at Barnhill Arena. Before that, it is the first game of the series — 1981-82 season — for the last trip to Fayetteville. Arkansas’ other “home” game was the first ever central Arkansas game as the Lady’Backs hosted Grambling at North Little Rock High in 1984-85.
THAT’S JUST NOT RIGHT: Arkansas gave up more turnovers than the opponent for the first time this season, -4, to Portland State. It led to the Vikings becoming the first team this year to score more points off turnovers, 27-23, than Arkansas.
DOWN 17? NOT A PROBLEM: Not unlike last season’s 17-point rally, Arkansas trailed Oregon by 17 with a little less than 11 minutes to play. A furious comeback led by Dominique Washington and Kristin Peoples closed the gap to only three, 57-54, with 3:43 to play. Unfortunately, turnovers and mistakes on the next two possessions allowed the Ducks to recover and take the win.
EVERYBODY PLAYS: Arkansas was full strength for the first time this year at Oregon, and Susie Gardner used every player on the bench in Eugene. Both Kristin Moore (13 minutes) and Adrienne Bush (11 minutes) saw their first playing time.
TURNOVERS GOOD, BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Arkansas forced +9 turnovers from Oregon at McArthur Court, and converted the 22 Duck errors into 21 points. The Lady’Backs also dumped UO into a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, but unfortunately so did Arkansas.
JONES GETS BLOCK BEST: Freshman Whitney Jones notched her new career high with four of Arkansas’ seven blocked shots at Oregon, then proved it was no fluke with four of the Lady’Backs’ six blocks at Portland State.
SPUTTERS: Arkansas allowed Oregon off the mat after building a 10-point lead early, 22-12, with a 3:05 scoreless stretch leading to a 10-0 Duck run to tie at 22-22. Only two field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half allowed UO to build its 17-point, 51-34 lead.
COMEBACK: A 20-6 run by the Lady’Backs down the stretch rallied 14 points off the 17-point deficit to Oregon, including an 11-2 climax on the run.
BRINGING BALANCE TO THE FORCE: In the first two games this year, the starting five has produced four scoring, two assist and one rebounding high. Four of the five have scored 20 points each. In the opener, Whitney Jones (22) and Kristin Peoples (21) took the lead at SMU. Memphis learned from that game, fronted Jones and isolated Peoples. The result? A career high for Dominique Washington (25) and a career tie for Rochelle Vaughn (22) with Sheree Thompson scoring a season high (16).
A DEFENSE SO GOOD IT LOOKS LIKE OFFENSE: Arkansas shredded regional rival Memphis with series record numbers, racking up the most points in the 15-game series (99) and largest margin (46). The offensive outburst was set up by another outstanding defensive performance in the halfcourt. The Lady’Backs were hitting high percentage shots courtesy of 32 Lady Tiger turnovers.
99 PUNKTE: Somehow, it sounds even better in German as Arkansas scored the most points to date of the Susie Gardner era against Memphis. The 99 points bettered 86 in a then-runaway versus Centenary in 2004 and was one shy of the first century game since December 2001 for Arkansas.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH: Arkansas left the building after Memphis with numerous career marks. Kristin Peoples got her career high for assists with eight. Rochelle Vaughn tied her scoring with 22. Sheree Thompson broke her rebound high with eight to lead the team. Ayana Brereton got scoring (8) and rebounding (5) bests as did Dominique Washington (25p, 7 r). Whitney Jones picked up her rebound and steal highs with five each.
VERY HIGH STEAL PERCENTAGE: Getting the 32 turnovers from Memphis wasn’t the news for the Lady’Back defense — it was 21 steals in the 32. Every Lady’Back except Kristina Andjelkovic had a steal; all but Rochelle Vaughn had more than one.
THAT’S NOT A TYPO: Arkansas missed a single free throw against Memphis, the best single game effort in the past three years (13-of-14).
THE NEW POTO: Back in the day, Arkansas was all about Poteau — as in the Oklahoma hometown of its first Kodak All-American and two-time SWC player of the year Delmonica DeHorney. In this historic 30th season, it’s all about POTO — points off turnovers. Arkansas is averaging 33.3 ppg off opponent turnovers.
JONES MAKES MORE HISTORY: Whitney Jones’ record effort earned her the first-ever Southeastern Conference women’s basketball freshman of the week honor on Monday. The league added a freshman honor to its weekly player honors for the 2005-06 season.
FRESHMAN STARTS: Whitney Jones’ 22 points is the most for a freshman starting in the opening game since 15 points by Karyn Karlin back on Nov. 23, 1995, against Texas-Arlington. Karlin went on to a pretty good year — SEC Freshman of the Year in 1996. Jones becomes the only freshman to start her season opener and score 20 or more. In fact, many future Lady’Back superstars didn’t have very auspicious opening games — Christy Smith and Shameka Christon each started their career openers but had 0 points. Her 22 also tops the most by any freshman in the SEC era as Wendi Willits came off the bench to score 21 at Providence in 1997. Jones’ 22 is the best of the SEC and SWC eras — box scores are spotty prior to the fourth season (1980-81).
DID YOU KNOW?: That while looking up the best freshman first games, it was discovered that Whitney Jones’ 22 points was the fourth most points by a Lady’Back in the season opener and Kristin Peoples’ 21 points ties for fifth. Kimberly Wilson’s 32 versus Pitt at the UNLV Tournament in 1995 tops the list, followed by 28 by Shameka Christon at Wichita State in 2003. Amanda Holley had 25 against Kansas State in 1982.
CAREER STARTS: Kristin Peoples not only got her 500th career point, the junior finally broke through the 18-point barrier. Five times, Peoples scored 18 in her first two years. Her 21 gives her a new high game, and obviously, her first 20-point game. She also tied her career high with seven assists.
THATS MS ANDJELKOVIC TO YOU: Kristina Andjelkovic played some of her best games at the close of last season, but wiped the slate almost clean in her senior season opener at SMU. The 6-2 Serb crushed her career rebound high with a team-leading 11 boards. She equalled her junior best with eight points, but none bigger than her super-clutch 18-footer with 1:03 left to play to give Arkansas a three-point lead, 66-63.
MORE KRISTINA: It’s an esoteric record, but 11 rebounds by Kristina Andjelkovic ties the most by a Lady’Back in the season opener. And, the 11 is more common than you’d guess as five other players (Lanell Dawson, 1985; Stephanie Bloomer, 1994; Karyn Karlin, 1996; Kamara Stancle, 1997; Shameka Christon, 2003) have pulled off the feat.
BE ONE WITH THE BALL: Whitney Jones said she was focused on stopping her player, SMU leading scorer Janielle Dobbs, from scoring her 17 point average, then just letting the came to come to her. At the 3:29 mark in the second half, Jones became one with the game as a series of plays set the stage for Arkansas’ win. Jones drove inside to draw Joselyn Greenard’s second foul and sink a pair of free throws to cut SMU’s lead to one, 60-59. On the ensuing inbound, Jones’ steal from Dobbs gave Arkansas back the ball. Her offensive rebound kept the possession alive, then her driving layup gave UA the lead, 61-60. After a Julie Colli’s three, Jones responded with a three-point play of her own, a layup and Greenard’s fourth foul, that put Arkansas up for good, 64-63.
DID WE READ THAT RIGHT?: The much shorter Lady Razorbacks outrebounded SMU, 43-37, in what became a halfcourt game which should have favored the Mustangs. Arkansas pounded the o-glass for a 21-8 advantage.
A SEASON OF ADDITION: Although the loss of Sarah Pfeifer certainly deals a blow to Arkansas, the beginning of the 2005-06 season is the opposite of a war of attrition. The bench goes to 10 with the return of Adrienne Bush next game with Memphis. Kristin Moore makes her season debut in game three to bring the roster to 11. After the close of the semester, midseason transfer Leslie Howard hits the floor. Should Danielle Allen return during the holidays, Arkansas reaches 13 on the bench.
RECORDS FALL IN FIRST EXHIBITION: Arkansas broke the school records for opponent turnovers against Cameron, forcing 40 miscues from the visiting Lady Aggies. As a function of the 40 turnovers, Arkansas also set a new exhibition record with 20 steals.
SISTERS VAUGHN TIE, BREAK MARK: Five steals in an exhibition game was the record at Arkansas, held by three players. Rochelle Vaughn tied that with five against Cameron, but her younger sister Brittney broke the record with six.
TREYS WAY AWAY: The impact of the experimental distance of 20-6 was unquestionable against Cameron. The two teams combined for only two made three-pointers off 19 attempts.
BUT SPOT ON WITH MSSU: Maybe it took a game to get use to, but Arkansas shot 40% from experimental three-point range (6-of-15) against Missouri Southern.
SIGNING DAY NEWS: The Lady’Backs picked up four high school signees on the opening day of the early National Letter of Intent period. In-state, Arkansas signed Kendra Roberts, a 5-8 guard from Fort Smith, Ark., Northside High School. Susie Gardner picked up players from three neighboring states: Charity Ford, a 5-8 combo guard from Arlington, Texas, Juan Seguin; TaNisha Smith, a 6-2 forward from Kansas City, Mo., Lincoln Prep; and 6-3 forward Ashley Wilson of Byhalia, Miss.
KENDRA ROBERTS: The 5-8 guard averaged 16 ppg, 6 rpg, 9 apg and 2 spg as a junior for Fort Smith Southside High. Roberts was an all-conference and all-region pick for the Lady Rebels. Playing her summer AAU basketball with the Arkansas Kamikazi team, The former Southside High guard will participate for Northside this season for Lady Bears head coach Rickey Smith. As a freshman, she averaged 18 ppg and 10 rpg and was the district MVP at Trinity Junior High. Her sophomore season at Southside, she averaged 12 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 spg and 2 apg and was named to the state’s top 10 sophomore list by Southern Starzz.
TANISHA SMITH: The 6-2 guard-forward averaged 16 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 apg and 3 spg for Coach Jeff Atkins at Lincoln Prep Academy as a junior. Lincoln finished the season in the Missouri state title game with a 26-4 record. She averaged 14 ppg and 8 rpg as a sophomore for the Tigers. Her career highs are 39 points and 17 rebounds. A three-time first-team all-district pick, Smith was also a first-team Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class AAAA all-state selection in 2005. She led her AAU team, Kansas City Keys, to a 62-3 mark this past summer for coach Harrell Johnson. The Keys reached the AAU Final Four in Orlando this year. Smith averaging 18 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.5 apg and 2.0 spg in AAU play, including a 31-point game against Cincinnati Nets, to earn AAU All-America honors.
CHARITY FORD: Ranked the No. 13 prospect in the state of Texas by TexasHoops, Ford averaged for Arlington’s Juan Seguin High. The co-MVP of District 7-AAAA, Ford averaged 18 ppg, 4.5 apg and 2.3 spg for the Lady Cougars last season she racked up 596 points as half of one of the strongest backcourts in the state of Texas.
ASHLEY WILSON: One of the top prospects from the state of Mississippi, Wilson did not participate in high school basketball last season while she was living in Ohio. The 6-3 swing post player currently attends Byhalia High School in Byhalia, Miss. The Indians’ leading scorer as a sophomore, Wilson is currently starting at point.
PFEIFER OUT FOR THE SEASON: One day after being voted by the league’s coaches and media to the preseason all-SEC second team, returning leading scorer Sarah Pfeifer tore her ACL in her left knee during the opening minutes of the Red-White Game. Pfeifer had surgery on the knee in early November 2005 to begin the rehab process. The 2005 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Pfeifer has already used a redshirt season in 2003 after a traumatic shoulder injury at the Loyola Marymount tournament. Regrettably, this marks the fourth major surgery (2003, left shoulder arthroscopic; 2004, left shoulder full cut; 2005, right shoulder full cut) in her Arkansas career.
LADY’BACKS VOTED PRESEASON 10TH AT SEC MEDIA DAYS: The Arkansas Lady Razorbacks were voted in a tie for 10th place with Mississippi State by the media assembled for this year’s basketball media days in Birmingham. The media seconded the endorsement of the coaches by voting Sarah Pfeifer to the preseason all-SEC second team. Prior to media day, the league coaches picked Pfeifer preseason second team. Defending champion LSU and Tennessee split most of the first-place votes, with UT getting the nod on points in the poll with 251, followed by LSU in second at 248 but one more first-place vote (11 to 10 for UT). Georgia was third with one first-place vote and 224. Vanderbilt rounded out the top four. Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Alabama and Kentucky were next before Arkansas and Miss State. South Carolina was voted 12th.
LUNCH WITH SUSIE: Arkansas head coach Susie Gardner’s next luncheon is Monday, Dec. 12. The luncheons begin at 11:30 at the Clarion Hotel. Cost is $8.50 for the buffet. For more questions, contact Lady’Back marketing at 575-7312.
LIVE LADY’BACKS: Arkansas will provide all games from Bud Walton Arena not available on cable television via LADYBACKS.COM video streaming, plus the Arkansas road game from Oregon via a shared feed in the XOS system. This means that 19 of Arkansas’ 27 regular season games can be viewed live by cable or internet.
FIGHTING RAZORBACKS: Arkansas’ two great comebacks last season from double-digit deficits. Suspected to be the greatest rally in a conference game at Arkansas, the 17-point comeback versus Mississippi State ranks in a tie for the fourth largest deficit overcome in Division I history. The Lady’Backs were down 42-25 with 4:38 left in the first half, and turned the game around to an 11-point lead with less than 30 seconds left before the final 80-73 score. Arkansas’ other rally, from 15 points down against Western Kentucky on Nov. 28, 2004, (28-13, 6:57 in the first half) to win 83-79, is just one point from tying the fifth largest — 16 points.
CALL HER THE QUEEN OF COMEBACK: Susie Gardner may have two entries on the greatest comeback list. While at Austin Peay during the 1999-2000 season, her Lady Govs trailed Tennessee State by 20 points, 61-41 with 7:32 left to play. Gardner pushed APSU to a 32-4 finish to win, 73-65. This would give her the second largest rally in NCAA history — two shy of the record of 22 — but perhaps the quickest comeback of all time. In the 22-point rally by Oregon over Arizona, the peak deficit was with 16:20 left in the game. The only other recorded 20-point rallies took longer. The first was by Florida in 1992. The Gators trailed Alabama with 11 minutes left and needed overtime to win. The other was when Southern Miss came back from a first-half 20-point deficit to Mississippi College in 1999. APSU is reporting in the 2000 game for addition to next year’s record book.