Brereton Jones honored on Senior Day
SENIOR DAY: The Razorbacks say farewell to senior starters Ayana Brereton and Whitney Jones in an early Senior Day game. Arkansas pulled a bye next week, and has its final regular season home game at Walton Arena in the next-to-last week of the SEC season.TWO TEAMS ON A ROLL: Arkansas broke another set of losing streaks at Florida while Alabama broke its own 10-game SEC skid by defeating Ole Miss on Thursday.ANOTHER RECORD IN SIGHT: Sunday Tom Collen can do something no other Razorback women’s basketball coach has ever done – win five straight SEC regular season games. The Razorbacks have tied the longest win streak for SEC regular season games with four this season. The 1995, 2000 and 2001 teams went for four. The 1995 team on the last four games of the regular season, then won the opening game of the 1995 SEC Tournament to claim five overall wins.SALUTE TO SWEAT HAWGS: With the ice storms, wide-spread power outages and elementary schools out for almost all of this week, the special Sweat Hawgs promotion originally set for Sunday’s Florida game is rescheduled for the Alabama game on Feb. 22. All vouchers issued for the Florida game will be honored on Feb. 22, and the originally scheduled Sweat Hawg halftime will take place that day.TALK TO THE HOG: Arkansas has now won three of the last four trips to Gainesville, and the one loss was by two points in the last four seconds.BREAKING THE AP STREAK: The win at Florida snaps a pair of long streaks against Associated Press ranked teams. Arkansas had lost 21 straight overall, and 24 on the road to AP ranked teams. Ironically, the last time Arkansas beat a Top 25 team was Jan. 26, 2006, when the Razorbacks beat a then 24th-ranked Florida at home. It was the first road win over a top 25 team for Arkansas in over eight years, and only the second of the 21st Century. The Razorbacks beat #15 Vanderbilt in Nashville back in Jan. Jan. 21, 2001.WHISPER TO A SCREAM: In Gainesville, Arkansas avenged its worst defensive night by sinking a season-high 52.8% from the field on the 15th-ranked Gators. The 83 points hung on Florida in the O’Connell Center was an opponent season high, and second only this year for Arkansas to the 85 racked up in Walton against both Stetson and North Dakota.250 IN THE BAG: Head coach Tom Collen won his career 250th at Florida. In his 11 seasons as a head coach, Collen reaches 250 in 344 games.TOM TIE-RIFIC: Since forgetting his trademark sweater vest for the Georgia game, Tom Collen is 4-0 wearing a shirt and tie.ONLY THE THIRD ROAD SEC AP WIN: The win at #15 Florida was special as it was only the third time for Arkansas to beat a ranked SEC team on the road.LOOKING TO BREAK ANOTHER STREAK: Arkansas has lost its last five Senior Day/Night games dating back to 2003. The last Senior Sendoff win? That would be Alabama in 2003.FOURTH DOUBLE FOR RICKETTS: Pulling down double digit rebounds first, then adding the points with late game free throws, Ceira Ricketts gets her third double of the year, which actually is her fourth when you consider her triple double.NOT BAD HURT: Oh, and did we mention, Ceira Ricketts injured her left hand toward the end of the first half at Florida.FORD FACTOR FLIPS FLORIDA: Once again, Charity Ford came off the bench to lead the Razorbacks in scoring versus a SEC road opponent. Ford had 19 to co-lead with Ayana Brereton at #15 Florida.FIVE FOR FIGHTING: The Razorbacks put five players in double digits at Florida, with three in the starters – Ayana Brereton with 19, Lyndsay Harris with 13 and Ceira Ricketts with 11 – and two off the bench – Charity Ford with 19 and Ashley McCray with 10.FORD CLOSING ON SEC DOUBLE DIGITS: With 19 points at Florida, Charity Ford is averaging 9.8 ppg against SEC opponents.McCRAY POUNDS ANOTHER SEC FOE: Ashley McCray went 5-of-6 at #15 Florida, raising her shooting percentage against SEC teams to 59.4%. The 6-3 junior is scoring 8.2 ppg in league play versus 5.3 ppg for the full season.IF, IF, IF: Imagine if Charity Ford doesn’t get hurt before Missouri, Texas Tech and LSU, if the one of the final two shots fall in regulation at Vanderbilt, if Arkansas caught one break in the last minute at Kentucky . . . . FUN WITH STATS: The league voted last year to go to a 16-game schedule next year, but may not play the traditional divisional set-up. Going into the last three dates of the final 14-game schedule, here’s a snapshot of what the standings would look like if we were in divisions today.EASTERN DIVISION SEC ONLY OVERALL W L PCT W L PCTVanderbilt 10 2 .833 21 6 .778Florida 8 4 .667 22 5 .815Tennessee 7 4 .636 18 8 .692Georgia 5 6 .454 15 11 .577Kentucky 4 7 .363 14 12 .538S. Carolina 2 9 .222 10 14 .714WESTERN DIVISION SEC ONLY OVERALL W L PCT W L PCTAuburn 10 2 .833 25 2 .893LSU 7 4 .636 14 9 .560Miss. State 6 5 .545 19 7 .731ARKANSAS 5 7 .417 16 11 .593Ole Miss 4 8 .333 15 12 .556Alabama 1 11 .091 13 14 .481IF IT’S NOT ONE THING, IT’S ANOTHER: Year in, year out, SEC critics complain it’s just a one team conference like any other — Tennessee and its eight national titles. So in a season where the true balance of the league is obvious — the Lady Vols not only would be out of the overall race but a mere third today in the Eastern Division, the argument that the league is predictable or lacks depth simply does not hold up.SUBMITTED FOR YOUR APPROVAL:CEIRA RICKETTS, FRESHMAN OF THE YEARCHARITY FORD, SIXTH PLAYERIf ever a pair of players made better cases at Arkansas, we don’t remember them. Ricketts is the four-time Freshman of the Week for the SEC and leads Arkansas in scoring. Ford has come off the bench all season, and in her eight SEC games has made a demonstrative impact on Arkansas’ offense. Ford is one of two Razoracks currently scoring more points against SEC opponents than against the full slate. Throwing out a less than one-minute appearance with Tennessee, Arkansas is 3-4 with Ford; 0-3 without her.FORD = CLUTCH: Charity Ford’s long-distance three against Ole Miss was by all persons — UA players, Tom Collen, UM head coach — the game changer. That was two in a row for Ford, who’s floater with USC proved the game winner with 30 seconds left.RICKETTS = VERSATILE: Just when people thing Ceira Ricketts is all scoring and steals, the freshman dishes the ball to Charity Ford for both of her game changers last week.GIVE HER FIVE — RICKETTS FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK AGAIN: In recognition of her point guard work and rebounding, Ceira Ricketts became only the second player in SEC history to win five freshman of the week awards. The other? Last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year, Angie Bjorkland of Tennessee.WHEN THE DEAD ZONE MEETS THE CLUTCH: In the past three games, it is all about the clutch. Florida didn’t get a Dead Zone break, but cut Arkansas’ lead to one late in the game. The Gators fouled, but Arkansas made just enough in the final four minutes to take a double-digit win. Ole Miss and Arkansas stumbled through the Dead Zone with neither team gaining ground, but the Lady Rebels finally pulling back to within five after trailing at half. But when Arkansas hit the four-minute mark, it was all Razorback starting with Charity Ford’s clutch three. The Razorbacks went on an 11-2 close to the game with Ole Miss. In the previous game, Arkansas overcame its first Dead Zone slump with South Carolina. The Gamecocks used a 7-2 push to gain a five-point margin and held the lead during the entire dreaded space between the second and third media time outs. It was Arkansas down the stretch as the Razorbacks went 10-6 in the last four minutes to defeat Carolina.IF THE TOURNAMENT WAS PLAYED TODAY: Arkansas’ seed remained the same, but thanks to a wild Thursday of upsets, everything else around the Razorbacks did. Arkansas is the eight seed today by a half-game, but would face Kentucky in the 8-9 game at noon on Thursday. The winner would have Vanderbilt, who has tiebreaker for the top seed on Auburn, on Friday at noon.MATINEES FOR RAZORBACKS?: When and who remains to be seen, but with two games to play, Arkansas has locked itself into no worse than the 10th seed — guaranteeing an afternoon at ALLTEL. Seeds 7-8-9-10 play the afternoon games at ALLTEL Arena in North Little Rock. Alabama and USC cannot catch.WIN YOUR WAY INTO THE NIGHT: Arkansas win at Florida combined with losses by other teams on Thursday does open the door to the possibilities of returning to a night game, but as the six seed. The Razorbacks would need one more win plus significant help or two more wins to get back to the 6-11 game.FUN WITH NUMBERS: With three playing dates for the SEC left, here we go — IF ARKANSAS SPLITS ITS FINAL GAMES At 6-8, the Razorbacks are most likely the 8 or 9 seed, playing at noon, but could be the 7 facing 10 at 2:30. IF ARKANSAS BEATS BOTH BAMA, AU At 7-7, the Razorbacks could rise as high as the six, but it depends upon the potential teams tied at 7-7 that include either LSU, Tennessee and Georgia, plus MSU. LSU and UT play next week in a game that potentially decides the fourth and final Thursday bye (both teams holding tiebreaker on Arkansas); UG and LSU have yet to play and the loser is likely out of 7-7 contention. Only MSU has clear sailing of the other teams to 7-7, but Arkansas has that tiebreaker. IF ARKANSAS LOSES BOTH BAMA, AU Razorbacks have scenarios for both the 8-9 and 7-10 games, but this time as the team wearing Cardinal in both games. Again, it depends on who falls into a 5-9 tie. Among the potentials are Ole Miss, UK, UG and USC.MUCH REVEALED SUNDAY: On first glance, it might not look like Sunday has the impact that Thursday’s upsets and showdowns, but for Arkansas, the key to the future lies in this weekend. A loss by Georgia moves the Lady Bulldogs into serious tie potential with Arkansas, and a win by Miss State at Tennessee puts those Lady Bulldogs almost out of reach at seven wins. The reverse is true — a Lady Vol win ends the chance for a 7-7 tie with Arkansas. The same for LSU as it faces Kentucky. But a Wildcat win brings UK into tie-range of Arkansas and the advantage is to the Wildcats. If Ole Miss wants to keep pace with Arkansas, the Lady Rebels must beat Vandy. The only game that really does not effect Arkansas directly is USC and Florida.EVEN UP THURSDAY: Half the league is off along with Arkansas next Thursday to get everyone on 13 games heading into next Sunday’s regular season finales.THESE HOGS SEE NO SHADOW: This February, the Razorbacks have thrown off the dark gloom of four more weeks without a win as Arkansas got its first win in the month of February since Feb. 13, 2005, at Georgia. That snaps a pair of concurrent 27-game streaks — 27 overall since the Feb. 13 game was against Georgia Tech and 27 SEC since Arkansas won the previous game on Feb. 10 against Alabama. Arkansas then added its first home win since that same Alabama game of 2005.FORD FACTOR: Charity Ford returned to the team full-time with the Miss State game, and the Razorbacks are a better team with their sixth-player star. Ford went out of the lineup in December with an acute stress fracture, and was highly limited in her playing time prior to full clearance at MSU on Jan. 25. Arkansas is 4-3 since Ford’s return, with one of the losses an overtime thriller at Vanderbilt. Think it is coincidental? Arkansas had Ford for eight games in 2009 — the seven recent and Kentucky. In those games, the Razorbacks shot 40.5% from the field. In the five games without in 2009, Arkansas shoots 35.5%.ONE MARGIN YOU WANT: Arkansas outrebounded Georgia, 41-33, continuing a trend that started with the started during conference games. The Razorbacks are +3.0 rebounds per game against league opponents, with Auburn having the largest margin (-7). Arkansas has outrebounded five of the last seven opponents (and going even with a sixth), and played very close to even with several taller teams (notably Tennessee, just -4).NOT THE MARGIN YOU WANT: Since SEC play started, Arkansas is averaging a -3.8 turnover margin. Until the Florida game, the Razorbacks have been negative except going even with Georgia and USC. Again, only UF at Gainesville saw Arkansas’ SEC foes have given up more than 15 turnovers this season, with LSU turning in an opponent season low to date of only seven. McCRAY BRINGIN’ IT IN CONFERENCE: Junior college transfer Ashley McCray is averaging only 5.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg for the season. She’s played in 24 of Arkansas’ 26 games (missing one for a death in the family) and starting five times. She’s become a starter in Tom Collen’s big lineup when the Razorback coach wants more size from the opening tip. Her numbers are deceptive, as McCray has turned it up in SEC games to average 8.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg.JONES PULLIN’ LEAGUE BOARDS: Whitney Jones has a similar SEC only story. While the senior’s scoring has dropped below double-digits for the year at 9.4 ppg and 7.6 ppg for SEC games, her rebounding is on another level against the big posts of the SEC — going from 7.6 rpg for the full season to 8.6 against league opponents.SERIES: This series is even at 12-12, but home team rules as the Razorbacks are 7-3 in Fayetteville. Arkansas has won the last two meetings.HOWDY PARTNERS: LSU is the “rival” or travel partner for Arkansas. Auburn is the Razorback’s SEC West rotating partner for this season. Arkansas returns to Auburn on the final day of the regular season. Florida is Arkansas’ Eastern rotator.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 voted to begin a 16-game schedule next season; however, the exact format is now being decided.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. OVERALL — ALL GAMES POINTS SCORED: 357 points (#1 Freshman, 9th Overall) SCORING AVG: 13.2 ppg (#1 Freshman, 9th) REBOUNDS: 6.3 rpg (#2 Freshman, 13th) FG %: .452 (#1 Freshman-6th) FT%: .710 (#2 Freshman-10th) ASSISTS: 4.0 apg (#1 Freshman-7th) STEALS: 2.6 spg (#1 Freshman-1st) ASST-TO RATIO: 1.6 (#1 Freshman-4th) DEF. BOARDS: 4.3 (#1 Freshman-7th) MINUTES PLAYED: 31.5 (#1 Freshman-9th)BEWARE THE DEAD ZONE: The Clif Notes — when Arkansas skids between the second (12:00 and under) and third (8:00 and under) time outs, bad things happen. The two games of 2009 without that opponent run? Miss State and Georgia. The two SEC wins to date; same.BEWARE THE DEAD ZONE, UNABRIDGED: For the Arkansas Razorbacks, the second media time out (the under 12:00 break) marks the start of an offensive black hole that started just after New Year’s Day. 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 losses. 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). Florida had a 12-0 run in the zone to push to its largest lead. The Razorbacks took one at Vanderbilt (10-1) that also gave the Commodores their largest lead of 15; however, the Razorbacks returned the favor with a 19-4 close to overtime. Proof in the pudding? Arkansas two SEC wins had no Dead Zone — a 9-4 UA advantage in the time slot at Miss State; and a 10-4 UA performance with Georgia. 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.DEFENSE DOWN THE STRETCH: Opponents must exploit the Dead Zone, because if they don’t, Arkansas defense will clamp down hard at the close of the game. The pressure is stronger on the road as the Razorbacks have allowed only one field goal in the final five minutes of the last three road conference games. Vanderbilt needed overtime to escape the 7:14 vise. Kentucky used free throws to overcome a 6:33 close without a field goal. Miss State had two free throws but no field goals in the last 4:02. Georgia had one field goal and got run 13-3 in the final three minutes.