Back to the road for women's hoops

ABOUT THE LADY BULLDOGS: Veteran coach Sharon Fanning’s club brings high scoring potential and a upper-classman dominated roster. State averages over 70 points per game with three players leading the offense. Alexis Rack at 13.3 ppg leads the team followed by Armelie Lumanu at 12.4 ppg. Chanel Mokango is at 11.5 ppg. Three times this season, State flirted with 100 points and against its non-conference opponents routinely clocked the high 70s and 80s. Conference play has been a mixed bag — a split at home but 2-1 on the road.BULLDOGS MAKING HISTORY, TOO: Miss State will be pumped up for Sunday after winning the first game ever at Baton Rouge, dowing the Lady Tigers, 38-36.TV TIME: The Razorbacks make the first of three straight road appearances on Fox Sports South. Arkansas is the first half of the Sunday double-header with Miss State, then the second half of the Thursday night double-header in the next game on Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. central. The string closes at LSU on Feb. 6, also the night-cap at 8 p.m.GOT THAT IN COMMON: Both Arkansas and MSU led Tennessee in the second half at home, but both lost by close margins. The Lady Bulldogs fell by seven, 63-56, while Arkansas’ was by nine, 76-67.SECOND POINT OF COMMONALITY: The mix of vets and rookies. State returns a core of seniors that were starters or key contributors from their freshman year on, but mix in a group of high octane junior college transfers.CONGO OLYMPIC TEAM?: Perhaps someday the trio of transfers from Southeastern Illinois to Miss State make the world stage for their native country in London for 2012. For the moment, Rima Kalonda, Armelie Lumanu and Chanel Mokango have provided an instant power boost to the Lady Bulldogs. Mokango has the biggest impact — literally — at 6-5. A WBCA All-American and two-time NJCAA All-American at Southeastern.RIDDLE ME THIS: If your team is held to almost half its season scoring average, how can you win? Get into a defensive slugfest with LSU. Miss State won on Thursday at Baton Rouge with only 38 points scored.ONE MORE TAKE: For contrast, Arkansas and Tennessee were 32-32 at halftime in a game that seemed very defense oriented. At the last media time out of the game, 3:57 to play, it was 32-32 between LSU and Miss State.AFTER ALL SHE IS, CEIRA RICKETTS: In consecutive games against top 10 SEC opponents, the Razorback freshman has scored her career high (tying her non-conference high with 22 against #10 Tennessee), pulled down her career high boards (13 against #6 Auburn), handed out her career high for assists (12 also with #6 Auburn) and made Razorback history with the first-ever triple double.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. POINTS: 13.6 ppg (#1 Freshman-7th) REBOUNDS: 6.5 rpg (#2 Freshman-12th) FG %: .472 (#1 Freshman-4th) ASSISTS: 3.4 apg (#1 Freshman-9th) FT%: .738 (#2 Freshman-t10th) STEALS: 2.8 spg (#1 Freshman-1st) ASST-TO RATIO: 1.5 (#1 Freshman-5th) DEF. BOARDS: 4.5 (#1 Freshman-8th)DID WE MENTION: At 12th in the SEC for rebounding, it should be noted that everyone ahead of Ceira Ricketts is taller than the 5-9 guard, and nine of the 11 are 6-0 or above.THE BLOCK MACHINE: Miss. State is the queen of rejection with a 7.3 per game average that leads the league and ranks second in the nation. To put the mark in perspective, North Carolina — a physically imposing team — is 4th. Texas is 6th. Auburn, with 6-7 KeKe Carrier and their tall timber, ranks 10th.THE BLOCK LEADER: For the SEC is Chanel Mokango at 3.7 per game and ranks fourth in the nation.SILENT NUMBERS: Lost in all the talk about Auburn or Tennessee or LSU in the NCAA stats is the overall effort of Miss State. The Lady Bulldogs are top 100 in every NCAA stat category except two percentages (104 in FT, 124 in 3pt), fouls (207th) and 3pt FG defense (217 — and of course, good news for Arkansas). State is quietly top 50 in all the broad measures — points (35), points allowed (34), scoring margin (14), field goal percentage (50), FG% defense (31), rebound margin (37), assists (40) and steals (20).McCRAY GOES OFF ON UT: After several quiet games, junior Ashley McCray exploded on the Lady Vols for a UA career best 12 points and a near-high seven rebounds. Her previous was 8p/9r with Miss Valley State at Kansas State’s tournament. Not only was McCray productive, she was efficient, hitting a season-best 5-of-6 at the line and 2-of-3 at the line in her 26 minutes played.SITUATIONAL LINEUP WITH TENNESSEE: Tom Collen went big against UT, pulling Lyndsay Harris from the guard spot and inserting post player Ashlea Williams to provide more size from the tip.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.RICKETTS BACK TO NO. 1: Freshman Ceira Ricketts leads the league with 2.8 steals per game. During non-conference play, Ricketts was the leader or No. 2 most of the early weeks. Her 48 total steals is also the most in the league. Nationally, Ricketts is 28th, up two spots from 30th last week.BEWARE THE DEAD ZONE: For the Arkansas Razorbacks, the second media time out (the under 12:00 break) marks the start of an offensive black hole for the past five games. 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. 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). 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.UNDONE BY RUN: Arkansas held a 59-57 lead with 8:33 over Tennessee, but the Razorback offense stalled and UT went on an 11-0 run to take the game. The Razorbacks were scoreless for 6:51 to open the door for the Tennessee “walk” — hard to call only 11 points versus a scoreless opponent for almost seven minutes a “run.”PASTRY PROBLEMS: The Razorbacks are 0-6 when they force less than 15 turnovers from opponents, and a similar 0-6 when they commit more turnovers than the opponent.