Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Collen pleased with strong start
Tom Collen, Arkansas women's basketball head coach, yells from the bench Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, during the second half of the game against Western Michigan at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Tom Collen isn’t surprised his Arkansas women’s basketball team is 8-0 heading into its first true road test tonight at Kansas.
It’s the way the Razorbacks have stormed out of the gate that has Collen feeling upbeat.
Arkansas is holding opponents to an average of just 40.5 points per game, which leads the nation, and the Razorbacks rank third in field-goal defense, limiting teams to 29.2 percent shooting.
ARKANSAS AT KANSAS
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.
RECORDS: Arkansas 8-0, Kansas 4-3
TV: ESPN3.com (subject to blackout)
Arkansas’ scoring margin of 35.9 points per game leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the country.
“I guess I’m surprised with the ease we’ve been able to score and defend against some of the teams we’ve played,” Collen said. “That is probably our biggest surprise. Last year we played defense but would have won some of these games by around 20, or like 70-52, and now we’re beating teams 80-40.
“We’re scoring a little more than I thought we might and defending a little better than what I thought we would.”
Arkansas has rolled over its weaker opponents and won its toughest test so far against a well-regarded Middle Tennessee team 66-51.
The Razorbacks thought they’d get to match up with host New Mexico at its Thanksgiving tournament last week in Albuquerque, N.M., but the Lobos were upset by Binghamton in the semifinals. The result: Arkansas crushed Southeast Missouri and Binghamton by 51 and 49 points, respectively.
“We got closer as a team,” point guard Calli Berna said. “It was our first away trip and we bonded.”
Junior forward Jhasmin Bowen earned tournament MVP honors with 35 points on 12-of-18 shooting and 11 rebounds.
“I know and everybody else knows that those first couple of games were not up to par and not what I was expecting,” said Bowen, who was averaging seven points per game before her recent surge. “Finally getting over that hump and playing up to my expectations, it felt pretty good.”
Kansas is led by 6-3 center Chelsea Gardner, who averages 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, and 5-8 guard CeCe Harper, who scores 9.0 points per game.
The Jayhawks were 3-0 before losing 70-59 at Minnesota, then going 1-2 at the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, with losses to Xavier and Duke and a victory over Central Michigan.
Sports, Pages 22 on 12/04/2013