Lady'Backs close out fall semester with Texas Southern Sunday afternoon

ABOUT THE LADY TIGERS: Texas Southern looks veteran with one sophomore and one freshman in the primary rotation, but the Lady Tigers are filled with rookies thanks to numerous junior college transfers. Guard-oriented and hungry for a first win, TSU does bring size on the inside with 6-5 junior Ashlee Norwood and 6-2 starter Jessica Vann.

WE’RE GONNA FEEL OLD ALL YEAR LONG: Arkansas plays its 10th game Sunday while Texas Southern plays its sixth. In the Lady’Backs’ first 10 opponents, TSU becomes the eighth to have not played near the number of games as Arkansas. The Tigers did not take advantage of the new opening week to cram in extra allowed games, while the Lady’Backs are going max limit this year with both the two games early plus the three-for-one counting of Hawai’i.

HEAR ALL ABOUT IT: The trip to Pearl Harbor, the games at the Sheriff Center, the injury to Lauren Ervin — all the insider scoop from the Lady Razorbacks’ trip to the Rainbow Wahine Classic and much more details on the opening weeks of the season. That’s what’s up on Monday, Dec. 4, at 11:30 a.m. at the Fayetteville Clarion Inn as Susie Gardner hosts her second luncheon of the season. Get a review of November and your preview of December. The cost is $11 inclusive.

RELENTLESS: The new word for the day is relentless, and Susie Gardner is asking her young basketball team to adopt a new mentality toward every game. With the exception of the opening three minutes of each half, it worked with Portland State as Arkansas racked up season highs for points scored and free throws made. Free throws made? That’s relentless? Yes, when they were created by slashing drives to the rack to force fouls and tempo.

UH, WE MEANT RELENTLESS FROM THE TIP OFF: Not the first timeout. Arkansas let Portland State have a pair of mini-runs at the start of each half (7-1 and 8-2) before Susie Gardner timeouts to emphatically remind the team of the new word of the day. The first half refresher resulted in a 38-6 run. The second half remind created a 6-0 run. What’s so special about 6-0? It took 27 seconds.

THIS COULD BE INTERESTING: Based on the available three-game stats, Texas Southern is -15.6 on turnover margin and only .5:1 for assist to turnover ratio. With only six steals per game and one block, the Lady Tigers look vulnerable to Arkansas’ high-pressure defense. The swings between stats would be +20.2 on turnover margin and +37 on rebound margin.

IT FINALLY SLOWS DOWN AFTER THIS WEEKEND: Arkansas faces two opponents in less than 48 hours this weekend with Portland State at 7 p.m. Friday, then Texas Southern on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Lady’Backs hit the finals break and leave the court for 10 days until hosting Southern Methodist on Dec. 13. By Sunday’s game with TSU, Arkansas will have completed 1/3 — 10 of the scheduled 30 — of its regular season schedule in less than a month.

BUT THE SCHEDULE GETS CRAZY: Check in with Bill Smith for practice times as the Lady’Backs head into the fall final exam period.

BACK IN THE POLLS: The early undefeated start gained Arkansas just a handful — four as a matter of fact — points in the Associated Press poll for the second week of the year. The Lady’Backs picked up steam in week three, up to 24 points in the also receiving to make Arkansas 31st among the media. In the coaches’ poll, Arkansas enters this week at four votes, effectively 41st.

DONICA COSBY NAMED SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK: Thanks to her all-tournament performance at the Rainbow Wahine Classic, freshman guard Donica Cosby was selected SEC Freshman of the Week for the week of Nov. 27. Cosby came to Hawai’i averaging 6.6 ppg, 30.6% from the field and 2.2 rpg. In the Aloha state, Cosby scored 16.3 ppg off with 45% from the field (17-of-38) and 75% at the free throw line (6-8) with 3.7 rpg. She was Arkansas’ leading scorer in the first two rounds at UH, scoring 14 against Denver and a year-to-date team best 24 points against Hawai’i. After coming off the bench the first seven games of the year, Cosby entered the starting lineup in the tournament championship game against #2 North Carolina and scored 11 points.

VERSUS TEXAS SOUTHERN: Arkansas leads the series with TSU, 1-0, dating back to the team’s first meeting, also in Fayetteville, during the 1994-95 season.

THAT JUST HAPPENED: Yes, Arkansas almost doubled Portland State on the boards — 50-27.

TRYING TO GO TO BREAK ON RECORD: The best start through 10 games in school history is 9-1, and the Lady’Backs can equal that mark with a win on Sunday with Texas Southern. There have been five other teams reach this level, including Susie Gardner’s second team at Arkansas in 2004-05. The longest runs to second loss, by the way, are 13-1 from the 1995-96 season and 12-1 the next year in 1996-97.

WALTON FINALLY SEEING THE BEST: Arkansas’ third home game was the first time Lady’Back home fans saw the best of some of its young players. After several high-powered road wins, Arkansas pounded a home foe from start to finish with Portland State, led by the newcomers in a near-across the board top performance.

IS IT A HALF-AND-HALF WHEN YOU DOUBLE ON ONE HAND?: Lauren Ervin pulled down nine rebounds by intermission and finished with the third double-double of her Arkansas career with 13 points and a career-tying 12 rebounds. Ervin did her work in only 26 minutes against Portland State.

ONE SHY OF ANOTHER FRESHMAN HIGH: Tanisha Smith got a new career/season best with 23 points off the bench against Portland State, and her effort was just one point away from equalling her freshman teammate’s current team best of 24.

POINTS OFF TURNOVERS AGAIN: Arkansas built its lead over Portland State the old fashioned way: relentless defense driving opportunistic offense. Half of Arkansas first 50 points came from points off turnovers, and the Lady’Backs finished with 37. Portland State — 12.

BANG THE BALL DOWN LOW: Arkansas had a season-to-date best of 52 points in the lane against Portland State.

AND WIPE THE GLASS CLEAN: Arkansas had 50 rebounds against Portland State for the best at home to date and most since 56 in the opener at Clemson.

POINT A MINUTE BRERETON: Ayana Brereton came off the bench to help destroy Portland State’s offense. Her steals and breakaways led to nine points in nine minutes off the bench.

DEFINITELY A WARRIOR: Lauren Ervin proved her mettle at the Rainbow Wahine Classic by batting the pain of a compound dislocation of her left pinkie finger. One day after the practice accident, she lead all rebounders with nine against Denver and scoring 12 points for Arkansas in only 20 minutes played. The next day, Ervin pulled down another 11 rebounds with six points in 30 minutes versus Hawai’i. Against UNC, she 15 points on 7-of-11 from the field and eight rebounds. Proving that playing with a tape and brace job that resembled half a catcher’s mitt wasn’t a problem, the 6-3 junior post had four assists and four steals in the three games of the tournament. The injury was on her non-shooting hand, and that was evident with 56% from the field for the tournament.

IMAGINE WHEN SHE HAS BOTH HANDS: Lauren Ervin is tied with Sarah Elliott of Kentucky for the conference lead with 9.8 rpg through games of Nov. 28. With her 78 rebounds in eight games, she is second on raw number to Sylvia Fowles of LSU who has 82 board in nine games. Fowles and Shawn Goff of Ole Miss are tied for third with 9.1 rpg. Ervin is third in blocked shots with 2.25 per game, sixth in field goal percentage at .606 and 13th in the SEC for scoring with 12.5 ppg.

FAST PACE TO EARLY SCHEDULE: The Lady’Backs play three games in five days starting with Lipscomb, a good simulation for the three-straight they will face at the Rainbow Wahine next week in Hawai’i. By next weekend, Arkansas will have a fourth of its schedule finished with eight games in the first 17 days of the season. As a result, Arkansas has more game days — 8 — than practice days — 7 — in the early schedule.

FOUR ROAD TRIPS, THREE PRESS ROWS: Brittney Vaughn has a habit of crashing into the press tables on the road. Her skill at managing the tables is improving. At Hawai’i, she deftly leapt on top of the scorer’s table at the Stan Sheriff Center after intercepting a Wahine pass and successfully passing her steal upcourt to a teammate for a breakaway layup. At Austin Peay, Vaughn barreled through without effect. She tumbled over the table for a slight concussion hitting the bleacher steps on the other side at Clemson.

THE BEST THINGS ON THE COURT ARE FREE: Arkansas has made a dramatic turnaround at the line to start this season. The Lady’Backs continue to force the game offensively on opponents, and have made almost as many free throws — 112 — than opponents have shot — 138. Arkansas is shooting just under 70% at the line for the year. Ten of the 11 Lady’Backs that have been to the stripe have hit at least one free throw this season.