@Razorbackwbb Travels To No. 14/15 Mississippi State

Arkansas (10-4, 0-2 SEC) at No. 14/15 Mississippi State (17-0, 2-0 SEC)

DATE Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015
TIME 8 p.m.
LOCATION Humphrey Coliseum (10,500) | Starkville, Miss.
TICKETS hailstate.com
WATCH LIVE Fox Sports Net (Dave Baker, Debbi Antonelli)
LISTEN LIVE Razorback Sports Network (Phil Elson)
LIVE STATS hailstate.com
STATISTICS Arkansas | Mississippi State
ONLINE www.RazorbackWBB.com

The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team will be playing in its second of three consecutive games against ranked opponents as it travels to Starkville, Miss., to battle unbeaten and 14th-ranked Mississippi State. Arkansas will be looking for its second win of the season over a ranked team after previously defeating No. 17/16 Iowa Nov. 28. The Razorbacks last win in a true road game against a ranked conference opponent came last Feb. 23, 2014, when Arkansas took down No. 19/18 LSU in Baton Rouge, La.


Thursday’s matchup with No. 14/15 Mississippi State marks the middle of a brutal three-game stretch for the Razorbacks in SEC play as Arkansas will face three-straight ranked opponents. In fact, Arkansas is one of only five teams in the SEC (Alabama, Auburn, Missouri, Vanderbilt) to open conference play with three of its first four games coming against ranked opponents. The Hogs lost their first game of the sequence on Sunday, losing at the buzzer to then-No. 5/8 Texas A&M. After Thursday’s matchup, Arkansas returns home to face No. 7/9 Tennessee. This stretch of games marks the first time Arkansas has played three consecutive opponents ranked in the AP Top 25 since 2012 when the Hogs played No. 17/15 Georgia, No. 11/9 Kentucky, and No. 6/7 Tennessee in a row in early January.

“We are off to an 0-2 start in league play,” head coach Jimmy Dykes said following his team’s loss to Texas A&M Jan. 4. “We have a couple ranked teams coming up next. I want our players to be relentless and right now our schedule is relentless. We are not going to back away from them.”

A 2014-15 Preseason All-SEC first team selection, sophomore Jessica Jackson seems to find an extra gear when it comes to competing in the nation’s toughest conference. During her freshman season, Jackson averaged 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and was named to the 2013-14 All-SEC freshman team and an All-SEC second team selection. In two conference games this season, she is averaging 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Jackson has played in 19 career conference games and has scored in double figures in 15 of those games. In fact, she is averaging 17.2 points per game in 19 career SEC games compared to 14.1 points in 26 non-conference games, an uptick of 3.1 points per game.

After appearing in all 30 games as a true freshman last season, sophomore Kelsey Brooks has inserted herself as a dynamic option for the Razorbacks this season. The Olathe, Kan., native is twice already this season a recipient of the SEC Player of the Week honors (Dec. 1 and 15) and leads the team and the conference in scoring with 16.5 per game. She also leads the team in steals per game (1.9), is second in assists per game (2.9), and is fourth on the team in rebounds per game (5.6). Brooks has started all 14 games and scored in double figures in 13 of them. She has scored over 20 points three times in her last 10 games. Brooks has made significant improvements in every statistical category from last season. Her biggest jump, however, is in scoring, where she is averaging 10 points more this season – 6.4 last season compared to 16.5 this season.

Arkansas has received solid play from a pair of sophomores. Kelsey Brooks and Jessica Jackson lead the team in scoring, averaging 16.5 and 14.9 points per game, respectively. In fact, Jackson and Brooks have combined for 31.4 points and account for 47.2 percent of the team’s total scoring, the most of any duo in the SEC. Eight times this season the Jackson and Brooks duo have combined for over 30 points and twice this season they have combined for over 40 points in a game (46 vs. Iowa, 47 vs. Oklahoma).

Part of the reason for Arkansas’ early-season success thus far has been its ability to rebound the basketball. The Razorbacks own a +11.6 edge on the boards, ranking second in the SEC and eighth in the country. In fact, Arkansas has outrebounded 11 of 14 opponents this season. The three games in which the Hogs have been outrebounded are by a combined 12 boards. Arkansas has limited opponents’ second chances, ranking first in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage at 73.8 percent.

• The Bulldogs enter Thursday’s contest with a perfect 17-0, 2-0 SEC record. Mississippi State defeated Georgia at home and Missouri on the road to open conference play
• Mississippi State leads the SEC and is eighth nationally, averaging 81.6 points per game
• Mississippi State is led in scoring by a pair of freshmen, as forward Victoria Vivians leads the team with 15.2 per game and guard Morgan William is responsible for 10.2 points per game. Vivians (twice) and William have combined for three SEC Freshman of the Week honors already this season
• The Bulldogs are second in the conference and fourth in the nation, pulling down 19 offensive rebounds per game.
• Vic Schaefer (Texas A&M, ’84) is in his third season as head coach of the Bulldogs, owning a 52-31 (.627) record. He owns a 132-141 career record as he is in his ninth season overall as a head coach.
• Schaefer has ties to the University of Arkansas women’s basketball program as he spent six seasons (1997-2003) on the coaching staff. Serving on former head coach Gary Blair’s staff, Schaefer was an assistant coach from 1997-2000 and an associate head coach from 2000-03. During his six seasons on staff, Schaefer helped Arkansas compile a 121-76 (.614) mark and reach the program’s only Final Four in 1998. Current Director of Basketball Operations Amber (Nicholas) Shirey was on Arkansas’ staff at the same time as Schaefer and Schaefer coached current Razorback assistant coach Christy Smith, who played at Arkansas from 1994-98, for one season in 1997-98.
• Arkansas leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 18-14, including a 6-8 mark in games played in Starkville. Arkansas has won three of the last four meetings in Starkville.

PREVIOUS GAME: NO. 5/8 TEXAS A&M 52, ARKANSAS 50 (Jan. 4, 2015)
The Razorbacks lost their second consecutive game to start SEC play, losing in a nail biter to Texas A&M. Trailing 50-48 with 54 seconds to go, sophomore Jessica Jackson drove baseline and converted a layup to tie the score with 31 seconds left. Texas A&M missed a pull-up jumper in the waning seconds, but the Aggies’ Achiri Ade grabbed the offensive rebounded and banked in the putback as time expired to give A&M the victory. Neither team was ahead by more than five points the entire contest, as the game featured 13 ties and 17 lead changes throughout. Jackson recorded her second double-double of the season, scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

POSTGAME NOTES (Texas A&M, Jan. 4, 2015)
• Sophomore Jessica Jackson tallied her second double-double of the season and seventh of her career, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
• With her 18 points today, Jackson has been in double figures in 15 of 19 career SEC games
• Sophomore Kelsey Brooks has scored in double figures in 13 of 14 games this season after registering 15 points
• Arkansas was outrebounded for just the third time all season. Texas A&M edged Arkansas 42-39 on the glass
• Junior Joey Bailey started her first career game. She grabbed three rebounds in 14 minutes of action
• Arkansas falls to 20-6 in the all-time series with A&M.

Arkansas Basketball Notes

The Razorbacks have demonstrated a balanced offensive attack this season, with three players averaging double-digit points (Brooks 16.5, Jackson 14.9, Bowen 11.5) and a fourth narrowly missing the threshold (Wolff 9.4). In fact, Arkansas is one of five teams in the SEC (Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt) to have at least three players averaging in double figures. Arkansas has received double digit scoring from at least three players in 11 of 14 games this season.

Coined the “heart and soul” of the team by Coach Dykes, junior Melissa Wolff has been a key Hog in Arkansas’ rebounding numbers as she is averaging nearly a double-double with 9.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. In fact, Wolff has tallied four double-doubles already this season, the most on the team. Wolff has six career double-doubles, and Arkansas is 6-0 in games when she records a double-double. The Cabot, Ark., native very well could have had five more double-doubles added to her resume as she has been a double-double threat in just about every game this season. She nearly finished with a double-double against Iowa (9 and 10), South Dakota State (9 and 16), Rutgers (11 and 8), Missouri State (10 and 9) and Texas A&M (8 and 10). Wolff’s 9.2 boards per game leads the team and ranks third in the SEC.

Arkansas has shown an ability to put the clamps down defensively this season. In fact, the Razorbacks are holding opponents to 34.4 percent shooting from the field, ranking fifth in the conference while also holding opponents to 55.0 points per game. Furthermore, Arkansas is holding its opponents to just 0.832 points per possession.

The Razorbacks have gotten after it on the defensive end of the floor and have held their opponents to without a field goal for large chunks of time. Through 14 games, 22 times the Razorback defense has held their opponent to without a field goal for over four minutes. Additionally, 15 times this season Arkansas has held their opponent to without a field goal for over five minutes. Arkansas held Tulsa to without a field goal for a 9:22 minute stretch on Dec. 14, a season-best for Arkansas’ defense.

Arkansas has recorded nine double-doubles from four different players. In comparison, Arkansas tallied 10 double-doubles all of last season. Junior Melissa Wolff has accounted for four double-doubles this season, giving her six for her career, as she went for 17 and 13 against Nicholls, 14 and 10 against Savannah State, 15 and 11 against Richmond, and 12 and 10 against Grambling. In fact, she’s recorded six double-doubles in 16 career starts. Senior Jhasmin Bowen has tallied two this season, going for 12 and 10 against Nicholls and 17 and 12 against Tulsa, giving her five for her career. Sophomore Jessica Jackson has seven career double-doubles, including two this season (19 and 12 vs. Savannah State, 18 and 10 vs. Texas A&M) while sophomore Kelsey Brooks recorded her first career double-double Nov. 23 against Northwestern State.

Along with one of the top point guards in all of college basketball in Calli Berna, the Razorbacks have distributed the ball effectively this season. Arkansas has assisted on 58.1 percent of its made field goals this season, including a season-best 78.9 percent (15 assists on 19 field goals) in a road win against MTSU Nov. 20. Berna ranks fifth in the conference with an individual assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.1:1. Berna ranks second in the conference, averaging 4.9 assists per game.

Arkansas’ relentless team defense has resulted in a number of defensive stat lines, but the one thing it has not resulted in is personal fouls called against them. Arkansas is averaging just 16.9 personal fouls called against them a game, resulting in opponents averaging 17.1 free throw attempts per game. In fact, Arkansas has committed less fouls than 10 of 14 opponents this season.

In non-conference play, the Razorbacks played away from Bud Walton Arena in six of their 12 games. Arkansas has established a perfect 6-0 (3-0 away, 3-0 neutral) mark in away/neutral site games, tied with South Carolina among SEC teams for the most wins coming away from home during the non-conference schedule.

The Razorbacks have grown accustomed to winning while donning the traveling red jerseys, having won their last 12 true non-conference road games in a row dating back to the 2009-10 season.

Senior Calli Berna stands in second place all-time in program history for assists with 569 career assists. Amy Wright (1998-02) owns the school record with 717 assists. If Berna averages 10.6 assists per game over the season’s final 14 regular-season contests, she will tie the school record. In addition, Berna’s 569 career assists ranks her seventh for current active assist leaders in the NCAA.

With a large portion of Razorback supporters scattered across Arkansas, the Hogs have a history of playing games throughout the state. Facing Oklahoma Dec. 21, the Razorbacks made their first appearance in Little Rock and Verizon Arena since 2009 and the program’s 10th overall trip to Little Rock, where the Hogs have tallied a 6-4 (.600) all-time record. The Oklahoma game also marked the 23rd overall game played in the state of Arkansas for the Razorbacks, owning an all-time record of 16-7 (.700). The 2015 SEC Women’s Basketball Championship will be held in Verizon Arena March 4-8, 2015.

Arkansas defeated Tulsa 64-53 on Dec. 14, giving the Razorbacks their 700th program win. Arkansas joins nine other SEC schools (Tennessee, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M) that have 700 or more program wins.

As the 2014-15 campaign continues, Arkansas is in the midst of its 39th season of women’s basketball, owning an overall program record of 702-439 (.615). In those 39 years, Arkansas has advanced to postseason play a total of 21 times, including 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament.

It is no secret Arkansas will have one of the smaller roster sizes across the country. In fact, with only nine players the Razorbacks have the smallest roster in the SEC. However, head coach Jimmy Dykes has embraced each and every player on the roster and has continued his daily preaching of “Be Arkansas,” saying he is “fine with nine.”

“I’m fine with nine. That’s where we are,” Dykes said while addressing the media Nov. 7. “With only nine players, the first 23 practices, we didn’t back off one second because we have to be in top physical condition. If we only have nine going into the season, those nine have to be ready to play a lot of minutes … That term ‘Be Arkansas’ has helped me in recruiting, but it’s also helped me define who we are as a basketball team. Being Arkansas is being a great teammate, being tough, being coachable, working your tail off every day, understanding what it takes to be a legit program at this level. I only want players who want to ‘Be Arkansas’ and I have nine of them right now who want to ‘Be Arkansas.’”

Senior Calli Berna has truly exemplified what it means to be a student-athlete at the University of Arkansas and participated in commencement exercises on Dec. 20 inside Barnhill Arena. Graduating with a bachelor of arts in broadcast journalism, Berna will move on to graduate school at UA where she will pursue sports management. The Fayetteville, Ark., native has earned academic distinction from the SEC three times (SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll 2011-12, SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2012-13 and 2013-14) and from the university six times (Arkansas Athletic Director’s List Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2014 and Arkansas Honor Roll Spring 2013). Berna joins Joey Bailey as the second graduate on the team as Bailey graduated with a degree in journalism and is pursuing her MBA.

Sophomore Jessica Jackson was named to a Preseason All-SEC First Team selection by the coaches as released by the conference Nov. 5. As a freshman last season, Jackson led the team and ranked seventh in the conference in scoring, averaging 16.2 per game.

In his first full recruiting class, first-year head coach Jimmy Dykes added five players to his 2015 class during the early signing period in November. Two ESPN Top 100 nationally ranked players highlight the class and three of the five players are from the state of Arkansas, continuing Dykes’ promise to “Be Arkansas” and keep top in-state talent at home. Jordan Danberry (G, 5-7) is a five-star recruit ranked No. 47 in the 2015 class by ESPN out of Conway, Ark. She was named the 2014 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 15.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists as a junior. North Little Rock’s Malica Monk (G, 5-5) is a four-star prospect ranked No. 64 in the 2015 class by ESPN. Monk was the first player to commit to Dykes and Coach says she is one of the fastest players baseline-to-baseline with a basketball in her hand in the entire 2015 class nationwide. Bailey Zimmerman (G/F, 6-1) is a three-time all-state tournament team selection out of Hattiville (Arkansas) High School and listed as a three-star prospect. Keiryn Swenson (G/F, 6-1) was a member of the 2014 6A All-State team out of Maize (Kansas) High School and is listed as a three-star prospect. Swenson had Division I offers in basketball, volleyball, and track and she will throw the javelin for Arkansas’ track and field team in the spring. Briunna Freeman (G, 5-9) has scored over 1,500 points in her career at Pelham (Georgia) High School and is a two-time AA All-State first team selection. Dykes notes her incredible athleticism, adding in that Freeman can dunk a tennis ball.

For more information on Arkansas women’s basketball, follow @RazorbackWBB on Twitter.