UA’s start saps opponent’s will
NWA Media/ANTHONY REYES -- Arkansas sophomore Calli Berna (11) steals the ball from Mississippi Valley State senior Lenise Stallings (20) in the first half Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas took apart Mississippi Valley State and made it look really easy.
The Razorbacks throttled the Devilettes from the opening tip in a 99-42 victory in front of 736 fans Wednesday at Walton Arena. Arkansas (10-1) shot 55.4 percent from the field as the taller, bigger Razorbacks had their way inside.
Seniors Quistelle Williams (18) and Sarah Watkins (17) led the way with 35 points, and Watkins grabbed the 500th rebound of her career late in the game. Watkins, who finished with eight rebounds, became the 17th player in program history to score 1,000 career points and have 500 rebounds.
After the first few possessions, about the only question left was whether Watkins would reach the 500-rebound plateau in the game. That, and if Arkansas would score 100 points for the first time since December 2009.
Arkansas made a lot of early shots, and the onslaught noticeably sapped Mississippi Valley State (3-6), which had played Ole Miss to a two-point loss earlier this year.
“I wish I knew why we shot so well,” Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said. “I’d like to can it up and start every game like that. You get off to a quick start like that, it’s easier to feel confidence if you’re a shooter.”
Mississippi Valley State Coach Elvis Robinson said his team was playing its last road game before going home for five days. When Arkansas’ offense checked in, his team checked out, Robinson said.
“We might have checked out before we even got here,” Robinson said. “When your big kids are knocking down shots, it’s going to be a long night. They did a lot of things well to make us look bad.”
Watkins, who didn’t start for the seventh consecutive game, wasn’t a part of the early scoring. That was all Williams, who finished with 14 first-half points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field.
“I was just shooting, I wasn’t thinking about it,” Williams said.
Watkins was thinking about her rebound total, mainly because Collen told her she needed to rebound well against Mississippi Valley State, which had one player on its roster 6-0 or taller. The Razorbacks outrebounded the Devilettes 54-26.
“Coach did let me know I need to buckle down and get a lot of rebounds,” Watkins said. “That was my drive for getting rebounds [Wednesday].”
Collen said he stressed to the team that Mississippi Valley State had played well against some quality teams, but it also had wilted at times, too. The Razorbacks made sure which opponent it wouldbe.
“We knew the teams they had played close; you keep it in the back of your mind,” Watkins said. “We are our own team, and we have to go play our game. We have to play like it’s the toughest game of the year.”
Sports, Pages 22 on 12/20/2012