Vaughn Ervin top 10 in Division I; Lady'Backs host Bama Thursday

ABOUT THE CRIMSON TIDE: The 2006-07 guide touts an extreme makeover at Alabama under second year head coach Stephany Smith, and thus far with three freshmen starting the Crimson Tide is living up to the theme. While four starters returned from last year’s team and the Tide scoring leaders are veterans Navonda Moore (13.6 ppg) and Kate Mastin (12.6 ppg), the minutes and starts are shared up and down the roster. Alabama my lead the league with 10 minute per game players — 10 of the 12 on the roster average over 10, and a 12th is at 9.9. Also, 10 of the 12 have started games this season, but a core of four players — Moore and Mastin plus freshmen Talisha Chandler and Nikki Davis — have stared most of the games for Bama.

THERE’S NO IN-BETWEEN: On Bama’s roster, you’re a rookie or a senior. The Tide has one sophomore — Camilla Blands, who has played only six games — and one junior — Nathalie Reshard. The rest are freshmen — six — or seniors — four. And, the one junior really is a rookie: Reshard is a JUCO transfer.

IT’S GETTING BETTER: Arkansas gets its second Alabama school that has already achieved more to date than last season. Stephany Smith’s first year at Bama resulted in a 9-19 season, a win total the Crimson Tide exceeded during non-conference play. Of course, one of those nine wins was UA. Last opponent, Auburn, had the same record relationship to last year.

HIGH AND LOW TIDE: There’s only two settings on the Alabama women’s basketball team. There’s the team that pushed Missouri, Auburn and Kentucky to the final minute. Then there is the one that managed less than 20 points in the first half against both Tennessee and South Carolina. Further, the one that lost to South Dakota State at home, then two days later thumped North Dakota State.

ONE INDICATOR: Bama is winless on the road, and its greatest struggles have been associated with games away from Coleman Coliseum.

FORGET THAT WE SAID THAT: Because this year in the SEC, nothing is a given for any team, particularly Arkansas.

VAUGHN GOES TO NO. 8 IN THE COUNTRY: Junior Brittney Vaughn’s 6.4 assists per game inches her up one spot to 8th in the Division I stats. She broke into the top 10 at No. 9 for the week of Jan. 7. She is second in the SEC to national runner-up Dee Davis of Vandy with 6.8. Amanda Rego of San Diego continues to lead at 7.8 per game.

NOW ERVIN BREAKS INTO THE TOP 10: Lauren Ervin moves into the top 10 in the nation in field goal percentage. At 61.3% from the field, Ervin also ranked third in the SEC. The last Lady’Back to rank so high in field goal percentage? Delmonica DeHorney from the SWC era. Ervin also ranks 17th in rebounds per game and 21 in blocked shots per game.

WASHINGTON KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: And, to top it off, Dominique Washington now stands at 12th in the nation for three-point percentage. Washington breaks the national numbers for the first time this week as she has reached the minimum attempt average. At 45.7%, she trails Sidney Spencer of Tennessee who leads the SEC and the nation at 53.5%.

PFEIFER NAMED NOMINEE FOR LOWE’S CLASS AWARD: Senior post Sarah Pfeifer was named one of the 30 national nominees for the Lowe’s CLASS Award. The award presented annually to the Division I senior basketball player who excels on and off the court — Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School — is in its sixth year, and Pfeifer becomes the first Lady Razorback chosen. Ten finalists will be chosen in February for the award, then a national ballot for fans coupled with media and coaches will determine the winner. Seven SEC athletes were on the list.

THE MOST DANGEROUS WEEK OF THE YEAR: Arkansas plays the two SEC teams that are winless this week, hosting 0-4 Alabama before traveling to 0-3 Florida. Celebrate, right? Wrong. In the SEC, there’s no such thing as a weak sister and almost without exception no one goes winless in the league. It’s not a matter of if these two teams get off zero — it’s who gets the privilege of being the upset.

ALL IN AGAIN: Thursday marks only the second time this season the entire league was in action — happened this past Sunday for the first time.

FIRE UP THE OVEN: It’s time to make pastry as the Crimson Tide has a 0.6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is upside down on turnover margin to the tune of -2.3. On Sunday, Alabama gave the ball up 34 times against only 3 assists. In league games, Alabama is only 0.3:1 on A:T and a mind-boggling -11.7 turnover margin.

LIKE FACING THE WISHBONE: What complicates matters for Arkansas is Stephany Smith’s motion offense. It will be like nothing else the Lady’Backs have faced, and to put it in football terms the practice sessions are tough as Arkansas attempts to simulate a wishbone attack for its defense to work against.

WASHINGTON ON THE PLAINS: Dominique Washington torched the Tigers at Auburn, hitting five three-pointers in the first half on the way to a season-team high and a career-high seven three pointers and 24 points. Washington’s seven now puts her with Donica Cosby for the second best three-point game at UA, but Washington gets the honors of the second best by herself for a SEC game. Wendi Willits has the overall and SEC game mark with nine at Georgia.

ERVIN SETS RECORD: Junior Lauren Ervin moved the UA game record for a SEC game up one notch with her 9-of-9 from the field at Auburn. No Lady’Back has achieved a perfect game over 10 attempts, but Ervin’s 9-of-9 advances the current best of 8-of-9 by Blair Savage against guess who — Auburn — on Jan. 11, 1992.

VAUGHN MUST HAVE SOME KIND OF RECORD: Brittney Vaughn’s 10 assists at Auburn is two shy of the SEC game record co-held by her older sister Rochelle and Amy Wright at 12. However, Brittney’s 10 assists against a single turnover has to be one of the best games all-time. There is no established mark for A:T in a game, but no other Lady’Back in recent history has had a double-digit assist game against a single turnover. Vaughn herself went 10:3 earlier this year.

AND AT LEAST A LONG TIME SINCE: Dominique Washington’s four-point play at Auburn is the first in recent memory. Washington hit her deep trey right in front of the Arkansas bench with 4:04 left in the game. Whitney Boddie couldn’t stop her forward progress, and barrelled into Washington for the foul. The four-point swing put Arkansas ahead, 60-58.

DON’T TELL US ITS NOT ABOUT JACK: I don’t know. Dominque Washington scores a season high and team high tying 24 points to defeat Auburn. Leslie Howard, #24, comes off the bench to hit the game icing free throws. Same night that Day 6 began at CTU? Coincidence? Only Cloe knows for sure.

AND WE TOLD YOU IT WAS ABOUT DEFENSE: First two SEC games, Arkansas defense was deficient. At Auburn, the Lady’Backs buckled down in the second half. Arkansas held AU to only 24 second half points, and the Tigers were scoreless in the final 3:23 of the contest. After only forcing only four turnovers in the first half, Arkansas extracted seven from AU in the second.

FINALLY, ITS OUR TURN: After three straight games against SEC rivals with something to prove after Arkansas provided shocking results last year, the Lady’Backs can turnabout for some fair play with Bama. The Tide snapped Arkansas quick start on the conference season with a stunning defeat that featured a not-so-complete comeback.

A TALE OF TWO HALVES: Arkansas had zero points off turnovers in the first half at Auburn, a sure recipe for Lady Razorback disaster. The Tigers had 11. Buckle down in the second half and Arkansas turned the POT around to 10 points in the second to only three for Auburn. Thus Arkansas rallies in the second half from a seven-point halftime deficit and avoids a second straight single digit POT game.

ERVIN LOSES HER OVERALL LEAD: Sylvia Fowles slipped past Lauren Ervin this week in the SEC on average. The two junior posts have identical 198 rebound totals, but Fowles has 18 games for an 11.0 average and Ervin 19 games for 10.4. Ervin had led the league for several weeks since emerging as a double-double threat. Ervin does continue as the top offensive rebounder, averaging 4.3 per game. She’s fourth in defensive boards where Fowles leads with 7.2 rpg.

VAUGHN CLOSING THE GAP: With another double-digit assist day, Brittney Vaughn inched closer to the league leader Dee Davis. Same story as Lauren Ervin — both players have 122 assists by Davis has played 18 to Vaughn’s 19, resulting in a 6.78 to 6.42 lead.

9-OF-9 WILL DO THAT FOR YOU: Lauren Ervin is up to third in the SEC in field goal percentage with .613. Liz Sherwood of Vandy leads at .664, followed by Sylvia Fowels at .653. They are the only players over 60% in the league this week.

COSBY STILL TOP FRESHMAN: In spite of a poor week and a half on average, Donica Cosby remains the top scoring freshman in the SEC with 12.1 ppg to rank 17th overall among the league’s scorers. Ole Miss’ Alliesha Easley is next at 11.4 ppg.

DROP TO 26 IN THE AP: Lady’Backs slide out of the top 25 this week with only one game on last week’s slate to the top of the also receivings. It is the same spot Arkansas had six weeks ago just before moving into the poll at 25, and at only six votes from 25 could jump right back in with a good week in conference play.

VERSUS ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide lead the series, 12-10, and have the brief one-game win streak after last year’s game at Tuscaloosa. This is one of the most balanced series in the SEC for Arkansas. The Lady’Backs are 6-3 at home, but 3-7 at Bama.

LAST MEETING WITH ALABAMA: The defensive theme was crushed by the first-half of Alabama’s offense, a whopping 60% from the field and 46 points to stun the conference undefeated Lady’Backs. It was double what Arkansas allowed any SEC foe in the first three games, not more than the three games combined. Coming out of the locker room, Arkansas shut down the Bama flex, and turned up its own offense to take the lead in the final minute. A defensive mistake left the door open, and Bama escaped with a two-point win. Dominque Washington had her best game to date, picking up a then-career high 19 points.

LAST TIME AT FAYETTEVILLE: Sarah Pfeifer matched her career high with 21 points as Arkansas put together a total team effort to blast the Crimson Tide at Walton. Taking a 50-33 halftime lead thanks to a 61.5% first half — a dramatic turnaround from the 20% halves at Auburn — the Lady’Backs hit 47.5% for the game. Pfeifer led four in double digits, with Kristin Peoples adding 15, Rochelle Vaughn 14 and Danielle Allen 11. Hitting its first nine shots — 7 FG, 2 FT — Arkansas almost set a school record for a half and the best since 1999.