Lady'Backs host LSU in return contest
ABOUT THE LADY RAZORBACKS: Arkansas heads into the final stretch with new starters to make a push for the SEC tournament seeding. Lauren Ervin is the leader, the first double-double player on average for Arkansas since the late 1980s. Offensive consistency haunts Arkansas in SEC play, and has stressed a solid defensive team to its limit.
ABOUT THE LADY TIGERS: LSU arrives for the return game with Arkansas coming off a disappointing non-conference defeat to Connecticut on Sunday, 72-71. Power post play is the key to LSU with Sylvia Fowles, but a developing perimeter game is improving by the week with Quianna Chaney and Erica White. The Lady Tigers had the country’s longest active home streak, but LSU’s only conference losses this year have come on the road where they are 3-2 in league games.
PFEIFER NAMED ESPN THE MAGAZINE ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT: Senior Sarah Pfeifer was voted by the membership of CoSIDA to the first team all-district squad last week, which puts the 5-11 post on the national ballot for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America. Pfeifer joins rare company with her honor — only two other Lady Razorbacks have made the national ballot. Her coach, Amber Nicholas Shirey, was a two-time academic all-American, while her former teammate, Kristin Peoples, made the third team all-America last season. Pfeifer was a second-team all-district selection as a sophomore, missing last year for injury. She is only the fourth player to ever make the all-district team. Trivia time: who was the fourth? Sally Moore in 1991.
IF THE TOURNAMENT WERE HELD TODAY: Arkansas holds down the 10 seed solo at this time, but there’s plenty of opportunity to move up for the Lady’Backs. We are one game away; however, from mathematically ending any night games at the SEC tournament for Arkansas. The 10 plays the seven seed, which based on the current standings is Kentucky at 5-6. The 7-10 winner gets the second seed — LSU.
BATTLE OF THE DEFENSES: In the last few games, Arkansas has felt pretty good about its defense. LSU, however, is another level of defense, leading the league in scoring defense with 48.5 ppg, scoring margin with +20.3, field goal defense at 32.2% and three-point defense at 27.3%. The Lady Tigers are also No. 1 in assist-to-turnover ratio.
AND THIS HASN’T CHANGED: Since the last meeting, LSU remains the No. 1 scoring defense in all of Division I this week, No. 2 in field goal percentage to Duke, No. 5 in scoring margin and No. 7 in turnovers per game.
BATTLE OF THE BACKBOARD STARS: Thursday’s game brings together the top two rebounders in the league. Sylvia Fowles has upped her game to 12.3 rpg while Lauren Ervin continues with 10.2 rpg. They are also the only double-double players in the league. Fowles ranks third in scoring at 17.4 ppg while Ervin is 13th with 12.9 ppg.
YOU CAN’T STOP HER: As the say goes, you can only hope to limit Sylvia Fowles. Ranked fourth in the nation in rebounds at 12.3 rpg and eighth in the nation in field goal percentage at 61.4%, Arkansas managed to slow Fowles in Baton Rouge only to be burned by the four spot and the guards. Fowles also ranks 55th in scoring and 64th in blocked shots this week.
NOT IN A GOOD MOOD: LSU had its home winning streak snapped on Sunday by UConn, ending what was the nation’s longest active home streak at 43 games.
REJECTION: With her five blocked shots against South Carolina — the league’s leading team for blocks, BTW — Lauren Ervin moves to No. 1 in the SEC in blocked shots this week with 2.46 and percentage change. Technically, she shares a 2.46 mark with Candace Parker, but Ervin has played two more games and blocked five more shots this season than the Tennessee all-American. As a team, Arkansas is now 18th in the nation at 5.5 per game.
ASSIST MAKER: With her seven assist effort against South Carolina, Brittney Vaughn inches closer to taking over the league lead in assists from Dee Davis of Vanderbilt. The pair enter the week neck and neck at 5.96 for Davis and 5.85 for Vaughn. Only one other player (Auburn’s Whitney Boddie) is even over five per game. Vaughn now leads in SEC games only with 5.7 per game versus league foes.
VAUGHN CLIMBING ASSIST LADDER: How improved in this area is the junior? Beginning the season, she had 169 assists in her career. So far this season, Vaughn has 152. That brings her to 321 and jumps her from possible entry all the way to No. 9 all-time at Arkansas. Her seven with Carolina moved her past Juliet Jackson. Two assists with LSU puts her in eighth and 12 more will put her past Arkansas’ 2007 SEC Tournament Great Honoree, Kimberly Wilson, and Donna Wilson in sixth. Today, she is exactly 100 assists away from passing her sister, Rochelle.
NATIONAL NUMBERS: Lauren Ervin remains ranked in the top 25 for rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. The junior post is 17th in shooting at 57.8%, 19th in rebounds at 10.2 per game and 21st for blocks at 2.5. Brittney Vaughn is 14th in the country in assists with 5.8 and 92nd for steals at 2.3.
VERSUS LSU: It has not been pretty recently with the Tigers. LSU leads the series, 20-9, and has won the last nine games overall. In Fayetteville, the series is almost even at 6-7.
NOTES FROM LAST MEETING WITH LSU:
AS SIMPLE AS BAD SHOOTING: Arkansas and LSU both shot 59 times, but the Lady’Backs hit only 32.2% while the Lady Tigers were 44.1%. Actually, maybe two problems as Arkansas usually shoots more than its opponents.
HEY, IT WAS BETTER THAN AVERAGE: While 32.2% might sound bad, consider that’s more than LSU’s opponent average — which is No. 2 in Division I at 30.7%. Even though it was a season low for Arkansas with 53 points, again consider that LSU is the No. 1 team in the country in scoring defense.
TWO BAD INDICATORS: It may not be your night when the 6-4 center is the leading three-point shooter and the 5-7 guard has about as good a chance at a double double as the 6-4 center. Lauren Ervin was 1-of-4 from behind the arc in her 16 points with eight boards. Meanwhile Donica Cosby was only 1-of-5 from three-point range, but also had eight rebounds — and got their in less time than Ervin.
MAYBE IT’S THE RIMS: Arkansas had one of its best free throw shooting nights of the year with 13-of-14 at LSU. Unfortunately, so did LSU hitting a highly uncharacteristic 17-of-20.
THAT ISN’T GOING TO CUT IT: Arkansas had only 20 points from the starters at LSU, and 16 of that came from Lauren Ervin. Charity Ford and Dominique Washington were scoreless, and Danielle Allen and Brittney Vaughn contributed only two each.
THERE’S GOOD AND BAD FROM THE BENCH: Donica Cosby brought 15 points from the bench in only 29 minutes played. But, the freshman had only 4-of-11 from the field with 1-of-5 from the arc. Where Cosby made up ground was at the line as she forced three fouls and converted all six free throws.
LAST TIME IN FAYETTEVILLE: LSU proved why they were the favorite to win the league with an offense tour de force in Fayetteville, shredding what had been a strong UA defense in SEC games. Arkansas had Seimone Augustus off her game early, but Sylvia Fowles more than made up with 9-of-12 from the field in a double-double game. Leslie Howard had one of her best games from behind the arc with 50% for three-pointers, but her 17 points wasn’t enough to undo a 66.7% first half and 57% game by LSU.
FOR ALL THE DEFENSIVE GOOD: Arkansas had another great defensive stand with South Carolina, holding the Gamecocks without a field goal for over seven minutes, and leading by 10 points, 60-50, with 10:02 left to play in the game. Unfortunately, Arkansas’ offense went dry for a crucial 11-0 run, going scoreless themselves for 4:54 and seeing a five point lead become a six point deficit with one minute left to play in the game.
SMITH GETS CAREER NUMBERS: Tanisha Smith scored 11 points against South Carolina as a starter, her best starting effort in a SEC game. She also tied her career high with eight rebounds, tied her career high blocks with two and her career steals with three. All of it came in only 27 minutes played. Had she completed the double with two more rebounds, she would have been the fourth Lady’Back this season to double.
FOUR OF FIVE: Arkansas had four of its five starters in double digits against South Carolina as Brittney Vaughn, Sarah Pfeifer and Lauren Ervin each had 12 and Tanisha Smith 11. Donica Cosby came off the bench to round out the top scorers with 10.
BEST HALF WASTED: Arkansas went to the locker room tied with USC, 36-36, based on the best first half shooting from the field for the Lady’Backs in SEC games this season with 48.0%. In the second half, Arkansas dropped to only 30.8% from the field which hurt, but the crucial factor was going from 11-of-13 from the line, 84.6%, to a mere 4-of-8 — dropping off on production and opportunity.
WELCOME TO THE BLOCK PARTY: South Carolina might lead the league in blocks, but it was Arkansas that handed out record rejection with a new Walton Arena team mark of 11. Earlier in the year, Arkansas tied the team mark with 10 versus ULM. While Lauren Ervin had five, it was not close to her arena record eight from the Cincinnati game.
LOST IN THE LOSS: Brittney Vaughn recovered from a series of poor assist-to-turnover games by handing out seven assists against three turnovers, plus scoring 12 points off a near perfect shooting day. Vaughn hit her first 10 shots — two field goals and eight free throws — before finishing 2-of-3 and 8-of-9.