UA women take crack at SEC road wall

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, January 3, 2013
Tom Collen's Razorbacks entered SEC play 12-1 and ranked No. 23.
Photo by Michael Woods
Tom Collen's Razorbacks entered SEC play 12-1 and ranked No. 23.

— Arkansas’ women’s basketball team has one for the road when it comes to SEC openers.

As in a 1-20 record for the Razorbacks in SEC road openers going back to the 1991-1992 season.

“That’s a pretty daunting task,” said Arkansas Coach Tom Collen, who is 0-5 in SEC road openers. “But I’ve got to believe that if you looked at eight or 10 of the SEC teams, that their opening game on the road they probably don’t have much of a better percentage.

“That speaks to the depth of this league over a period of time. There just are no weak sisters.”

Ten of Arkansas’ 20 losses in SEC road openers have come to nationally rankedteams, including to Tennessee four times when the Lady Vols were ranked among the top five. But the Razorbacks also have lost to unranked Ole Miss teams five times in roadopeners.

Arkansas’ lone victory in an SEC road opener came Jan. 15, 2006, when the Razorbacks won 66-45 at Mississippi State. That’s also the last time Arkansas won an SEC opener home or away. Overall, including years when Arkansas opened the SEC season at home, Arkansas is 4-17 in SEC season openers.

The No. 23 Razorbacks (12-1) will try end their sixgame losing streak in SEC openers and get their second victory in a road opener in 22 tries when they play Auburn (11-2) at 6 tonight in Auburn Arena.

Sophomore point guard Calli Berna said the Razorbacks don’t have negative thoughts about the program’s history of losing SEC road openers and are confident they can win at Auburn.

“Why can’t we win the next one?” Berna said. “I don’t see that as hindering us at all. ... We want to be the ones who do that.”

Auburn isn’t among the SEC’s six nationally ranked teams, but the Tigers have an eight-game winning streak and are 7-0 at home under Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who led Georgetown to the NCAA Tournament the previous three years.

Collen said after watching tape of Auburn that he believes the Tigers match up favorably with Oklahoma and Kansas, the two nationally ranked teams Arkansas has played.

“I look at Auburn, and I think when the dust settles and if they do what I think they’re capable of doing, they’ll be in the NCAA Tournament,” Collen said. “You don’t hear anything about them, they’re not getting any votes in the polls, buy in mymind they are as good as [No. 24] Texas A&M, the team we’re getting ready to play two days later.

“It won’t be easy to beat them on the road, but I think we’re a pretty good team, too. Hopefully we’re going to riseto the challenge and go steal one on the road right off the bat.”

Arkansas has won eight consecutive games since losing 73-70 to Oklahoma in Hawaii.

“I feel like we’ve done what we’ve had to do to prepare this whole conference season,” Berna said. “We’ve come out and had to battle back from being down some games, we’ve had to get to wins on the road. I think that our resume up to this point has gotten us ready for we’re about to get into.”

Arkansas senior forward Sarah Watkins said the Razorbacks haven’t put a lot of thought into being nationally ranked for the first time in two years.

“We definitely like having the ranking,” Watkins said. “It’s a little bit of confidence behind how we’ve been playing, but now it’s the SEC. You have to come out every game ready to play and ready to win. I think that’s everybody’s mind-set at this point.”

Sports, Pages 18 on 01/03/2013