Make Walton Arena pink on Sunday
ABOUT THE RAZORBACKS: Arkansas begins its second season with Tom Collen as the head coach. The Razorbacks sport one of the nation’s top 25 recruiting classes, and the six newcomers is the most for Arkansas’ women’s basketball team in several seasons. The Razorbacks return a pair of senior leaders in Ayana Brereton and Whitney Jones. Brereton was the team’s top scorer in Southeastern Conference games last season, and Jones was the top rebounder versus the SEC. Newcomers like freshmen guards Ceira Ricketts and Lyndsay Harris have brought a new scoring power for the Razorbacks from the perimeter.PINK ZONE FOR OLE MISS: Pink Zone tee-shirts are the ticket of choice to Sunday’s matchup with the Lady Rebels. The tee-shirts are $15, which includes admission to the game. Fans who already have tickets can purchase shirts only for $10. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Pink Zone shirts go to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research.TV TIME FOR RAZORBACKS: The second of two games on Cox Sports Television for Arkansas. Blair Cartwright handles the play-by-play with former Razorback guard Kimberly Wilson Jenkins on the color. The game is live to Cox Cable customers in the northwest Arkansas area, and elsewhere as available via Cox.RICKETTS FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK, AGAIN: Ceira Ricketts earned her fourth league freshman honor after Arkansas split with LSU and Georgia. Ricketts turned in her second double-double with points and assists of the season with 12 points and 10 assists at Georgia. She was Arkansas’ leading scorer earlier in the week at LSU with 11 points. Ricketts also enjoyed her best week of three-point shooting against conference opponents, hitting 33% from behind the arc. For those scoring at home, the most freshman of the year weeks belongs to Tennessee’s Angie Bjorkland, who picked up the award five times last season.EVEN STEVEN: Arkansas was on par with South Carolina for rebounds (35-35) and turnovers (14-14). The turnovers were more significant as the Razorbacks were -3 in the first half, and let USC come back to tie the game at half, 28-28.STREAKIN’: Arkansas rolled South Carolina, 12-2, to start the game, holding the Gamecocks without a point until almost the first media time out (over four minutes). USC hit only 1-of-13 to start the game, but turned the game into a barn-burner by running Arkansas 15-5 shortly thereafter.PITCHING SHUTOUTS: Not only did Arkansas hold USC without a field goal for the first 4:20 seconds, they also kept the Gamecocks from getting a rebound in the same time frame.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 FACTOR AGAIN: Charity Ford scored 10 points off the bench for Arkansas against USC, and provided key spark plays. It was a baseline drive by Ford with two seconds on the shot clock and 33 on the game clock that broke the final tie of the game and put Arkansas ahead for good, 55-53. Ford’s steal and layup in the first half put Arkansas back ahead, 26-24 and helped to guarantee no worse than a halftime tie.WHEN THE DEAD ZONE MEETS THE CLUTCH: 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 WERE PLAYED TODAY: Arkansas would be the 10-seed playing either Georgia or LSU as the seven-seed at 2:30 on Thursday. The winner would take on second-seed Florida at 2:30 on Friday. As the Lady Bulldogs and Lady Tigers are both 5-4, the tiebreaker between those two teams is set for Feb. 19.THE FIGHT FOR FEBRUARY BEGINS: Tom Collen proclaimed at the close of a tough January that saw Arkansas play the defending national champion (Tennessee), the preseason pick to win the league (Vanderbilt) and the team that’s actually doing the job (Auburn) that the season was now about a Fight for February. PLAYING FOR DAYLIGHT: The win over USC gives Arkansas tiebreaker advantage against the Gamecocks. While Arkansas is now tied for ninth with Kentucky, the Wildcats hold the same over the Razorbacks. Seeds 7-8-9-10 play the afternoon games at ALLTEL Arena in North Little Rock. With four games to play, the Razorbacks mathematically eliminate the 12 seed with one more victory or Alabama loss; remove the 11 seed with the combination of one more win and one more USC loss. The 5-12, 6-11 seed games are the nightcap.RIDDLE ME THIS: Arkansas takes Vanderbilt to overtime in Nashville, then almost allows USC to do the same at home. The young Arkansas squad has developed a profile of playing to the level of the opponent — good and bad.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 2-3 since Ford’s return, with one of the losses an overtime thriller at Vanderbilt. Think it is coincidental? Arkansas had Ford for six games — the five 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 +3.1 rebounds per game against league opponents, with Auburn having the largest margin (-7). Arkansas has outrebounded three of the last four opponents, 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 -4.5 turnover margin. Every game the Razorbacks have been negative except at Miss State (-1), Arkansas has lost. None of 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. Notable are the Georgia and USC games as Arkansas was even for the first times in SEC play.McCRAY BRINGIN’ IT IN CONFERENCE: Junior college transfer Ashley McCray is averaging only 5.1 ppg and 3.8 rpg for the season. She’s played in 22 of Arkansas’ 24 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 7.9 ppg and 4.9 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 7.8 ppg for SEC games, her rebounding is on another level against the big posts of the SEC — going from 7.8 rpg for the full season to 8.9 against league opponents.SERIES: Ole Miss leads 19-7, and has won the last seven meetings between the teams. Home court holds sway with the Razorbacks winning 6 of the 10 in Fayetteville and the Lady Rebels perfect at Oxford — 13-0.PASTRY PROBLEMS: The Razorbacks are 3-9 when they force less than 15 turnovers from opponents, and just 1-9 when they commit more turnovers than the opponent.SALUTE TO SWEAT HAWGS DELAYED: 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.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: 333 points (#1 Freshman, 9th Overall) SCORING AVG: 13.3 ppg (#1 Freshman, 7th) REBOUNDS: 6.1 rpg (#2 Freshman, 14th) FG %: .448 (#1 Freshman-6th) FT%: .724 (#2 Freshman-9th) ASSISTS: 4.0 apg (#1 Freshman-t6th) STEALS: 2.8 spg (#1 Freshman-1st) ASST-TO RATIO: 1.6 (#1 Freshman-4th) DEF. BOARDS: 4.4 (#1 Freshman-7th)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.FORD GAME-TO-GAME UNTIL MSU: Charity Ford missed the Auburn game, and was a game-time decision until Miss State. She came off the bench for a season-high at Kentucky. The junior guard had been out with a leg injury that she suffered during the holidays. She missed the Stetson game, back in the boot on her left leg. A new series of scans revealed an acute stress fracture, and she will be on the sidelines for a while. Originally, she missed the game with Missouri, and did not dress after her leg injury against Dartmouth. As dramatic as it appeared when Ford collided with a Dartmouth player and landed awkwardly on her left leg, the junior guard got a clean bill of health at the doctors. She returned to the court for Western Illinois, turning in 24 minutes. However, pain returned and MRIs were ordered, revealing the fracture.ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK: Ceira Ricketts was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for the second consecutive week. The freshman from Louisville, Ky., averaged 18.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg for the past week, including a near double versus then No. 10 Tennessee with 22 points and nine rebounds, then 13 points as Arkansas’ top-scoring starter at Miss State for the Razorbacks first conference win of the year. The freshman also led all players in the game with six assists and three steals vs. UT. At Miss State, Ricketts had 13 points and four steals as the top scoring starter for the Razorbacks. Ricketts led the team in assists in Arkansas first win against a SEC opponent. The win at State broke a five-game losing streak dating back to the Jan. 3. For the week, Ricketts exceeded her season averages and SEC-game only averages with 18.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 and 3.5 spg. She becomes the first Razorback to win three SEC weekly honors in the same season.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.FIRST TIME — RICKETTS NAMED SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK: After a week that saw her move from sub to starter to team’s leading scorer, Ceira Ricketts was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for Nov. 24. Ricketts had double digits in all three games for the week, notching then career highs in points (18, SMU), rebounds (9, Northwestern), assists (4, High Point) and steals (5, High Point). Ricketts was Arkansas leading scorer on average for the three-game run, and emerged as the team’s overall leading scorer with 13 ppg for the season. She averages 4 steals per game to start the season. Ricketts is the third Razorback named freshman of the week. The last time was Donica Cosby from Nov. 2006. Her teammate, Whitney Jones, was the first-ever SEC freshman of the week back in December 2005.FRESHMEN STARTERS: Lyndsay Harris got the nod to start against La-Monroe, making her the first freshman to start on opening day since Tanisha Smith in 2005 as the Razorbacks tipped off the year at Clemson.MILLIONTH FAN FOR TENNESSEE: In 33 years of women’s basketball at Arkansas, to date, 999,286 fans have attended Razorback games in Fayetteville. The season-high 3,916 for Tennessee brought the millionth fan to Razorback women’s basketball at home. Arkansas entered the season with 984,206 total recorded fans (attendance records prior to 1985 are incomplete), and registered 18,996 so far in 2008-09 for 14 home games.2008-09 SIGNEES:DARSHAE BURNSIDE: One of the West Coast’s best rebounders, Darshae Burnside of San Bernadino, Calif., was the first women’s basketball player of the early period to sign a National Letter of Intent with the University of Arkansas. The 6-3 center-forward from Cajon High School in San Bernadino is ranked top 100 by most of the prep prospect services. She was singled out by ESPN.com as one of the top players at the Nike Regional Skills Academy in May. Burnside is the second California prep star to sign with Arkansas under Collen. Last fall, Arkansas signed Jamesha Townsend from the San Diego area. Arkansas’ recent star junior college transfer, Lauren Ervin, was from the Los Angeles area, and last spring was a draft pick of the Connecticut Sun. Last season, Burnside averaged 15.5 ppg and 16.1 rpg for the Cajon. The Cowgirls to the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section 2A title with a 30-4 overall record. In the state title game, Burnside had 12 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots as CHS defeated Ayala, 51-47. Only two teams held her to single digits, with a season high of 33 points against Ontario (Calif.). As a sophomore, Burnside was first-team all-state as one of the top rebounders in the country and the No. 4 shot-blocker in the state of California.SARAH WATKINS: Forward Sarah Watkins is one of the nation’s top 50 players. The 6-3 Watkins gives Arkansas a pair of top-flight post players in the 2009 recruiting class. California post player Darshae Burnside opened the early signing period for the Razorbacks last week Watkins is rated top 50 or top 100 by almost every notable girl’s basketball service. ESPN listed the versatile center as the No. 42 recruit in the country (and the No. 7 forward in the country), touting her ability to score from two feet to 24 feet. Already a 1,000-point career scorer by the close of her junior year, Watkins led Houston High in Germantown, Tenn., to the 8-AAA regional championship in basketball. Watkins averaged 23 ppg, 10 rpg and 5 blocks last season. She broke the HHS single-game scoring record last year with 43 points against rival Germantown, pulling down 18 rebounds with eight blocks. As a junior, Watkins was named MVP of the regional tournament, along with all-metro Memphis and several other tournament teams. The 6-3 post was also selected for both Nike Skills Academy and adidas Top Ten. Her AAU team, Memphis Elite, is a fixture on the national tournament scene. Along with her basketball talent, Watkins is a member of Houston High’s two-time district and regional golf champion squads. As a senior, she was a scoring member of HHS team that was third at the state Class AAA championship; seventh her junior year.