Return game with Florida on Thursday
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.THINGS DIFFERENT SINCE WE LAST MET: Florida hit the rough shoals last week in a bid for the league title, losing two straight. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks have gone on a roll since taking one their worst beatings of the year to the Gators at home. Arkansas has won its last three games and carries momentum to Gainesville for the rematch.250 FOR COLLEN: Tom Collen hit 249 career wins on Sunday with Ole Miss, and gets his first try at his 250th on Thursday.
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 = CLUTCH: Charity Ford’s long-distance three against Ole Miss was by all persons — UA players, Tom Collen, UM head coach — the game changer. That was two in a row for Ford, who’s floater with USC proved the game winner with 30 seconds left.RICKETTS = VERSATILE: Just when people thing Ceira Ricketts is all scoring and steals, the freshman dishes the ball to Charity Ford for both of her game changers last week.GIVE HER FIVE — RICKETTS FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK AGAIN: In recognition of her point guard work and rebounding, Ceira Ricketts became only the second player in SEC history to win five freshman of the week awards. The other? Last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year, Angie Bjorkland of Tennessee.BEST HALF OF THE YEAR: Arkansas opened it up on Ole Miss, hitting 59.3% in the first half for a season best single half shooting percentage. It led to the best halftime lead against a SEC opponent — 16 points.SECOND BEST ON THE BOARDS: Arkansas outrebounded Ole Miss, 41-29, which ranked second to the effort with Vanderbilt that was record-setting earlier in the season.WHEN THE DEAD ZONE MEETS THE CLUTCH: In the past two games, it is all about the clutch. Ole Miss and Arkansas stumbled through the Dead Zone with neither team gaining ground, but the Lady Rebels finally pulling back to within five after trailing at half. But when Arkansas hit the four-minute mark, it was all Razorback starting with Charity Ford’s clutch three. The Razorbacks went on an 11-2 close to the game with Ole Miss. In the previous game, 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.FLIP A GATOR ON ITS BACK: That’s what last week looked like for the top scoring offense in the SEC as Florida managed only 115 points in two losses, punctuated by a 47-point effort in a 19-point loss at LSU on Sunday. A little more than a week earlier, the Gators had almost 100 in back to back games — a season high 94 against Arkansas followed by 92 at Alabama.GATORS BEST IN THE SWAMP: Find them on the side of the road, easier to deal with, but in the O’Connell Center Florida is undefeated this season at 13-0 and 5-0 in SEC games. Conversely, every Gator loss has been on the road this year.NOT SO MUCH LAST YEAR: It was the meeting at Gainesville that Arkansas had its best chance with Florida, losing by only two points in a true heartbreaker.MATINEES FOR RAZORBACKS: When and who remains to be seen, but with three games to play, Arkansas has all but locked itself into no worse than the 10th seed — guaranteeing an afternoon at ALLTEL. Seeds 7-8-9-10 play the afternoon games at ALLTEL Arena in North Little Rock. Alabama (0-11 with three left) cannot catch and USC needs a ton of help (2-9, but Arkansas owns tiebreaker in the event of losing its next three).IF THE TOURNAMENT WAS PLAYED TODAY: Arkansas would be the eight seed facing nine seed Ole Miss on Thursday at noon to play Auburn at noon on Friday.THIS IS ABOUT TO GET INTERESTING: Carolina needs a sweep of its final three — at Florida and at Miss State before closing with UK at home — to catch Arkansas, if the Razorbacks are winless the final three games of the year. Arkansas and Ole Miss could be headed for a tie, perhaps joined by Kentucky who today is a half game back on bye dates. The Wildcats have a tough close with all four dates occupied by UT, at LSU, UG and at USC. Georgia is a game and a half ahead, but the Lady Bulldogs also have four straight to close with LSU, at AU, at UK and Florida. At 6-5, Miss State gets a bye along with Alabama and USC plus Tennessee.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 4-3 since Ford’s return, with one of the losses an overtime thriller at Vanderbilt. Think it is coincidental? Arkansas had Ford for eight games in 2009 — the seven 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 +3.7 rebounds per game against league opponents, with Auburn having the largest margin (-7). Arkansas has outrebounded five of the last seven opponents (and going even with a sixth), 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 -4.1 turnover margin. Every game the Razorbacks have been negative except at Miss State (-1) and even with Georgia and USC, 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. McCRAY BRINGIN’ IT IN CONFERENCE: Junior college transfer Ashley McCray is averaging only 5.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg for the season. She’s played in 24 of Arkansas’ 26 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 8.0 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 9.5 ppg and 7.7 ppg for SEC games, her rebounding is on another level against the big posts of the SEC — going from 7.7 rpg for the full season to 8.6 against league opponents.SERIES: This is an interesting one as Florida leads 19-6, but since the turn of the 21st century, Arkansas has won five of the last 10 meetings, including two of the last three in Gainesville. Last year’s game almost made three as the Razorbacks led at halftime, and missed a last second chance to fall by two.HOWDY PARTNERS: LSU is the “rival” or travel partner for Arkansas. Auburn is the Razorback’s SEC West rotating partner for this season. Arkansas returns to Auburn on the final day of the regular season. Florida is Arkansas’ Eastern rotator.LET’S EXPLAIN THIS, FOR THE LAST TIME: The SEC women’s teams do not play the divisional schedule as the men’s teams, and have a 14-game schedule that breaks down this way: once against the entire conference plus home-and-home with the rival/travel partner, home-and-home with a rotating Western Division member and home-and-home with a rotating Eastern Division team. For Arkansas, that means home-and-home with LSU (rival), Auburn (West rotator) and Florida (East rotator). Why the last time? The league voted to begin a 16-game schedule next season; however, the exact format is now being decided.