Lady'Backs open season at SMU Friday

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 MUSTANGS: Southern Methodist returns all five starters from a team that went 19-11 last season for Coach Rhonda Rompola.
FROM WNIT TO WNIT: SMU gets a jump start on the season by participating in the Preseason WNIT, coming on the heels of the Mustangs’ appearance in last season’s WNIT.
ARKANSAS IN OPENERS: Overall, Arkansas is tough in its first game, posting an 23-6 mark. Arkansas’ last opening loss on the road came to start the 2000-01 season as Memphis stunned the Lady’Backs at the Pyramid, 66-58. In fact, road openers have not been particularly kind to Arkansas — only a 17-12 mark. And, when the opener is on the road, the mark is only 4-4; 2-4 since 1990.
LAST GAME FOR SMU: The Mustangs were pounded on the inside at Norman as Oklahoma defeated SMU, 80-43, in the second round of the preseason WNIT. The game got out of hand early as the Sooners crushed SMU behind a 19-point, 20-rebound game by freshman Courtney Paris. SMU shot only 20% from the field in the first half while Oklahoma rolled with 5.9% to a 49-22 halftime lead. The Mustangs’ offensive woes continued in the second with only 18.8% to finish at 19.4% from the field. Janielle Dodds was the only Mustang in double figures with 15 points.
EXPERIENCE ADVANTAGE TO SMU: No matter how you slice it, the Mustangs have the advantage over Arkansas Friday. Not only does Coach Rhonda Rompola return all five starters, she has two games into the 2005-06 season thanks to the preseason WNIT.
NO SCIENTIFIC ROCKET NEEDED: Sophomore Janielle Dodds has over 1/3 of SMU’s offense in the first two games. Limiting her ability to turn loose inside as she did against ULL is crucial.
THEN AGAIN: While Dodds shot 46.4% (13-of-28) for the opening weekend, the rest of the Mustangs hit 14% at Oklahoma, 23% with La-Lafayette.
BANG THE BALL DOWN LOW: SMU pulled away from La-Lafayette in the season opener thanks to the power inside of Janielle Dodds and Sarah Davis. Dodds went double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, hitting 8-of-15 from the field. Davis added only nine points, but scooped up 11 rebounds.
THE FIRST OF MANY SUCH NIGHTS: SMU is led by 6-3 sophomore Janielle Dodds. The Virginia native is a regular double-double performer, picking up 25 doubles last season and opening 2005-06 with another double against ULL. Her teammate is co-captain Sarah Davis, a 6-2 senior that pulled a near double average last year with 9.7 ppg and 7.1 rebounds.
SOUNDS FAMILIAR: SMU lost the rebounding war with ULL, 52-46, but had a pair of players in double digit boards. Main cause? ULL shot only 26.9% from the field and SMU was only marginally better at 30.6%.
NINE TO DRESS FOR SMU: With the combination of injuries, transfer rules and suspensions, Arkansas has nine players sporting the Cardinal and White at Moody Coliseum.
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.
AND A GUARD SHALL LEAD THEM: Sure, Arkansas has a small lineup for the season opener, but the team’s leading rebounder is “guard” Melissa Hobbs with 9 rpg. The midseason transfer last year from Colorado, Hobbs was touted as a tall three-point threat. Instead, she’s converted to the four spot to take advantage of her 6-0 frame and the result is 16 boards in the first two games off the bench.
HOMECOMING FOR THE VAUGHNS: For the first time in four years, the Ezekiel and Vickie Vaughn have a commute rather than a road trip to see their daughters play basketball. Regulars at Bud Walton Arena (and arenas across the country), the Vaughns make the short drive from Plano into downtown Dallas. The Vaughn siblings grew up in the Metroplex attending Plano West High. This is the second visit to DFW, but the first time the sisters Rochelle and Brittney will be on the court together. Last time, Rochelle was a sophomore but Brittney was a senior recruit sitting in the stands at the Frog house. Arkansas lost a dramatic overtime decision at top 25 TCU, 67-62.
HEY, I KNOW YOU: At least one Mustang is familiar with Arkansas as former Vanderbilt guard Julie Colli is a starting senior for SMU. Colli came off the bench for only seven minutes in the 2001 loss at Nashville, 68-64, then did not play as a sophomore in the 67-57 loss at Fayetteville in 2002.
ANOTHER SISTER ACT: The Collis of Flower Mound, Texas, face off with the Vaughns of Plano. While that might sound like a prep rivalry renewed, the elder Colli, redshirt senior starter Julie, is playing on the same team as sister Jennifer, a true freshman, for the first time — the two were five years apart in high school.
VERSUS SMU: Arkansas leads the series 19-4, but SMU won the last meeting in Dallas, 89-81. The two teams have met only twice since Arkansas departed the Southwest Conference for the SEC in 1992. The Lady’Backs hold a 10-2 advantage in Dallas against SMU.
AT MOODY COLISEUM: Back in the day, Moody was the home of the opening rounds of the SWC Classic from 1985 until the end of the league. In addition to a 10-2 mark against SMU in University Park, the Lady’Backs have a 5-5 mark in SWC tournament games played at the historic venue.
VAUGHN MOVES UP SCORING LIST: Midway through SEC play Rochelle Vaughn became the 42nd Lady’Back to score 500 points in her career, and with 648 ends the season ranked 31st all-time. Next on the career ranking is Shaka Massey at 676, which will break Vaughn into the career top 30.
VAUGHN GOES TO ASSIST TOP 8, KNOCKING ON STEAL DOOR: With her five assists against UNLV, Rochelle Vaughn passed Juliet Jackson for eighth place all-time at Arkansas. Vaughn heads into her senior year with 321 assists, and Cheryl Orcholski next on the list at 323. On the steal list, Vaughn has 168 for her career, and is 19 away from catching 10th place Shea Henderson with 187.
PEOPLES ONLY 17 AWAY: Kristin Peoples closed her second year at Arkansas 483 points for her career, which leaves her only 17 away from becoming the 44th player in UA history to score over 500 in her career. The junior is also only 16 assists from jumping into the career top 20 at Arkansas.
NO RECORDS WITH MSSU: After the exhibition recordfest with Cameron, Arkansas just won against Missouri Southern.
THAT’S NOT TO SAY IT WAS DULL: With six players in double figures, Arkansas shared the ball against MSSU. For the second straight game, everyone scored and this time, each of the nine players dressed recorded over 15 minutes.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS, GOOD NEWS: Arkansas improved from the exhibition opener to 38% from the field against MSSU, and hit a whopping 40% from behind the uber-arc. Hitting better behind the line than in front was mixed news. However, the unquestionably good news came at the free throw line where Arkansas hit 71.4% (25-of-35).
THAT’S A BALANCED ATTACK: Arkansas had three starters in double digits, led by Sheree Thompson with 15 points. Rochelle Vaughn picked up a double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Dominique Washington scored 11. Arkansas had three subs in double digits, led by Brittney Vaughn with 15 points. Whitney Jones came off the bench for a near double with 10 points and eight boards. Ayana Brereton rounded out the scoring with 10.
LESS TURNOVERS, MORE EFFICIENCY: Granted, it wasn’t the 40-turnover blur of the opening exhibition game, but Arkansas forced 27 miscues by Missouri Southern and converted them into 34 points. On the flip side, Arkansas had only 14 turnovers against 19 assists and allowed only five opponent points off turnovers.
EVERYONE SCORES, EVERYONE FOULS: With only nine players dressed against Cameron and a new scrambling defense, everyone got into the scorebook last Sunday. In fact, every player on the team had at least two fouls, with one player exiting early (Dominique Washington). In fact, only Melissa Hobbs had a mere two fouls. On the plus side, every player scored in the game as each player saw at least 10 minutes of playing time. Everyone had over five points (Whitney Jones, Hobbs at five).
GOING FOR 21 STRAIGHT: For the home opener, Arkansas is 29-1 all-time and brings a 20-year streak into Monday’s game with Memphis, winning every home opener in school history except one — the 1982-83 game against defending national champion and #2 ranked Louisiana Tech. Arkansas dropped that one 75-52 to also stop the school’s home win streak of 21 consecutive.
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.
COULD HAVE BEENS: If it was a regular season game, Kristina Andjelkovic would have registered a new career high with her nine points versus Cameron. The Serbian junior college transfer had a pair of eights last year. Also, Brittney Vaughn’s six steals would have doubled her freshman best of three and her 10 rebounds would crush her previous of six. Melissa Hobbs also would have a new high with nine rebounds, edging her junior year eight.
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.
STILL WAITING FOR A 10 COUNT: As for the other women’s rule experiment, there wasn’t a single 10-second backcourt violation in the Cameron or Missouri Southern games.
CAMERON MADE HISTORY: The Lady Aggies became the first collegiate team to play Arkansas as an exhibition opponent in the 30-year history of the program.
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.
RED-WHITE GOOD NEWS: Whitney Jones combined for 21 points to lead all scorers in the intrasquad game last week. Melissa Hobbs pulled down 10 rebounds with eight points for a near double-double. Sheree Thompson did get the double, getting 10 boards and 10 points along with six assists for the White team. Rochelle Vaughn had 11 points for the Red squad while Dominique Washington combined 12 points for both teams.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: Last year, Danielle Allen was the break-out player in the Red-White. This year, it was another post player Whitney Jones. Allen lit up the 2004 Red-White for 23 points and 12 rebounds which proved to be the sign of things to come for the sophomore.
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.
MOORE, BUSH SUSPENDED FOR PRESEASON: Senior returning starters Kristin Moore and Adrienne Bush are suspended for the three preseason games and opening games of the season. Moore will not play in the season opener at SMU or the home opener against Memphis due to violations of University policies. Bush will not play the opener at SMU due to violations of team and Women’s Athletics Department rules. Both continue to practice.
TICKETS ARE ON SALE: Season tickets for the 2005-06 season are on sale. Prices are $90 for reserved, $80 for student/senior citizen reserved and are available by calling 877-LADYBACK or 57-LBACK, or for new season ticket sales available on-line at LADYBACKS.COM. All season ticket renewals must be processed by the Lady’Back Ticket Office, but the season ticket form for renewals can be downloaded from the website.
LUNCH WITH SUSIE: Arkansas head coach Susie Gardner’s next luncheon is Monday, Nov. 28. 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.
STEALS LEAD SEC: For only the fifth time in Arkansas’ 13 seasons in the SEC, the Lady’Backs led the league in a statistical category. The school-record 388 steals marks the first time since 2000 for the Lady’Backs to lead the SEC.