Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Arkansas women’s team goes all in
Keira Peak’s (shown in an earlier game) big night couldn’t knock Oklahoma off balance Friday night.
FAYETTEVILLE Calli Berna attended several basketball games at Bud Walton Arena when she was a student at Root Elementary.
As a sophomore guard for Arkansas, Berna found herself on the other side Friday. Playing before thousands of local elementary school students, the Fayetteville native had the best game of her career, scoring 22 points and helping the Razorbacks to a 97-58 victory over Jackson State.
An announced crowd of 3,365 were in attendance for the third annual “Elementary Day”.
“When I was in fifth grade, I had my birthday party at an Arkansas-LSU basketball game,” Berna said. “I like to think of that because that’s how these little kids feel when they are here. It’s crazy to think now that I’m in the shoes of who I was watching.
“I try to remember that and put on a show for them.”
Berna made 5 of 6 three pointers and added a game high 7 assists as Arkansas overcame a sluggish start in its season opener. After trailing by one point late in the first half, the Razorbacks outscored the Tigers 68-28.
Arkansas led 44-36 at halftime and made 63.6 percent of its shots in the second half to put the game out of reach.
“We realized we weren’t playing as good of defense as we could have, and I think defense creates offense,” Berna said. “I think we picked it up on defense. It really creates offense when you’re going to the boards, and we just hit shots.”
After keeping Arkansas afloat with her scoring in the first half, Berna had six of her assists in the second half.
“Clearly, the thing she does well is passes the ball and finds people in transition,” Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said. “We don’t necessarily ask her to go out there and dominate the scoring column. We ask her to run the team and get other people involved.”
Berna and backup point guard Erin Gatling helped their teammates get involved Friday. Quistelle Williams (17 points) and Jhasmin Bowen (14) each had career-high scoring efforts. Bowen also grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds.
“I told Bowen all last year to just be patient, you’re going to get your chance to play and you’re going to be in the rotation this year,” Collen said. “She always puts up quality minutes. She’s a high-percentage shooter and doesn’t take a lot of crazy shots. She always works hard and rebounds the basketball.”
The interior players made up for the absence of preseason All-SEC selection Sarah Watkins, who played only 12 minutes because of foul trouble. Watkins finished with four points and three rebounds.
Senior Kelsey Hatcher and freshman Melissa Wolff each added nine points for the Razorbacks. Hatcher, who totaled 19 points last season, connected on 3 of 5 attempts from three-point range.
“She made the first shot of the game and I thought, ‘Here we go. Maybe she can get that confidence back,’ ” Collen said. “She missed a couple, but she wasn’t afraid to keep shooting.
“I think she’s a weapon whether she’s a starter or whether she’s coming off the bench. She’s a kid who has made shots her whole life, and if she could just feel that way then she’ll be someone who stretches the defense for us and there will be a huge role for her on this team.”
Ayanna Hardy-Fuller led Jackson State (0-1) with 14 points.
Sports, Pages 24 on 11/10/2012